Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Frank Review of "Waitress" (2007)

The Short Version? Waitress gets knocked up by asshole husband, but finds escape with her OB/GYN.
What Is It? Comedy
Who's In It? Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith
Should I See It? Maybe.

I've heard that the only widely accepted bigotry in modern life is directed at the obese. I would refute that claim, as Waitress proves misandry continues to thrive at the cineplex. Yes, another one of those tales where every single woman is quietly heroic, and every single man in a jerk, either overtly or otherwise. This is a chick flick somehow afforded indie caché, based on the film's protagonist being allowed a few negative attributes, and perhaps some slight twists along the way. Still, for a film of its stripe, writer-director-actress Adrienne Shelly exceeds the audience's expectations. Though self-consciously quirky, and occasionally too precious or broad, I found Waitress ultimately managed to win me over.

This movie has many problems. Like The Astronaut Farmer, it tries to balance real world issues with a fairy tale quality, but fails the delivery on both. They even share a ridiculous windfall scenario that solves pretty near all the complications set up during the running time. The Southern Fried characters are a bunch of lovable yokels, to be laughed at as much as with, and they feel completely fabricated. Again though, it begs forgiveness, and you're likely to grant it.

Keri Russell does an fantastic job of carrying the picture, completely believable as a depressed, sarcastic woman who cannot summon affection for her pathetic husband nor expected child. She is outmatched only by Andy Griffith, deliciously caustic and totally in his element whenever he appears. Nathan Fillion is as charming as ever, but his country-boy-by-way-of-Canada voice makes one wonder why his character's being from Connecticut wasn't written out of the script. Cheryl Hines seems to have based her entire performance on Flo from old "Alice" re-runs. Jeremy Sisto does his best to give depth to the bad material he has to work with as the needy, abusive husband.

Adrienne Shelly is said to have written the picture as a vehicle for herself, and it shows. She's clearly in love with her heroine, and allows none of the other characters to exist in a real way beyond sitcom fare. This extends to her own conciliatory part, which she plays well, but in which she graces herself much more screen time that was genuinely warranted. However, she proved a strong director with a clear vision for what she wanted, and women who relate to her star are liable to fall hard for the picture. Waitress has some genuinely witty dialogue at times, and serves up a big 'ol slice of wish-fulfillment for those in need of comfort pie.

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