10 Years: “Waitress”

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Some films you know you loved the first time, but can’t remember the why. Perhaps it’s been years since you last saw it. Perhaps there’s something else within the film that when viewed you can instantly connect with. Whatever it is, another viewing of said film may definitely be in order. If you don’t rediscover what it is that made you love it the first time, maybe you can at least learn something else. That’s the beauty of rewatching a film you haven’t seen in some time.

The Fox Searchlight Pictures film “Waitress” is sad and dramatic throughout, but brings amazing humor and humanity that should make this film resonate with anyone who watches. It’s what happened to me this time, which shouldn’t have been surprising as I watched this film a year ago and knew what it was capable of, and yet it was. I guess that’s a good sign for this now 10 year old film. Not all films, no matter how strong or powerful they may be the first time, can continue to move people the same way as time goes on. It also helps to make me understand why Sara Bareilles decided to help adapt the film into a Tony nominated musical, which recently celebrated its first anniversary since opening last year. This film also just helps to reaffirm why I love independent films and why they’re still necessary today. There’s hope in filmmakers who want to tell specific stories that would otherwise be overlooked or not made at all. While I don’t find that this film’s anniversary is going to suddenly spark an interest in bigger studios taking chances with dynamic stories, it gives me hope that other film lovers will look at this film and see what can be accomplished.

Love Of The Quirky

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Quirkiness is a big component of this film. It’s how there’s a well executed balancing act and a way to organically like these characters. Well, all but for Jeremy Sisto’s Earl, but he was never meant to be likable. It’s where this film manages to get by with it’s somewhat slower narrative. It’s what allows for themes of love and friendship, motherhood and happiness to be on display in so many great ways. It’s what makes this film so much fun to watch.

Firstly, which is why the quirks and characters can work so well, there’s the writing from Adrienne Shelly, who also directed and acted in the film, and the general performances from the cast. It’s all so good! She clearly knew what she wanted for this film and was able to follow through with it. Then, which is always a plus, no matter the type of film, she got just the right cast. Each actor delivered believable performances and really captured the necessary elements for their characters to feel more than just likable fictional people. Even a character like Sisto’s, who never really moved out of asshole territory, was given a few opportunities to try and explain his actions, which could potentially make him redeemable. Sadly, it was all for not as he never tried to change. But even then, which always makes me wonder why actors take such roles, he was still able to deliver.

Then there’s just the quirks of the other characters and their daily lives which brought in the necessary drama of life and some laughs. You’ve got Eddie Jemison’s Ogie, whom I didn’t even remember that well, but by the end of this viewing, also because of Shelly, I absolutely loved him! He’s just so weird and in all the right ways. It’s cute. There’s a lot of love and compassion, and as it turns out, it’s just what Shelly’s Dawn needed. While he may not get all that much backstory, outside of how it relates to his approach to dating and falling in love, that’s okay. He fulfills his primary purpose and comes alive enough.

Since I’m on Jemison’s Ogie, I might as well focus on Shelly. She plays Dawn, and while she’s definitely not as quirky and weird as Jemison, there’s still something about her person that qualifies. I find that it’s just her entire nature. Her appearance, he views of herself, which are also kind of harsh and sad, and her manner of speaking. It’s just perfect. She’s truly a unique character, and we get that also because of what we learn about her and see how she grows. Throw in how she gets along with Russell and Cheryl Hines’ Becky and has a good relationship with them, and you’ve got this complete character. It’s no wonder I love Dawn and Ogie as a couple and delight at seeing them both so happy!

Even Keri Russell’s Jenna is a bit quirky herself. She dreams up pies that typically correspond to some feeling or event going on in her life. While I won’t go on and on about that now, it’s still worth mentioning here. The humor from the sadness she’s feeling is most definitely welcome, but again shows how good Shelly was at making sure drama and comedy could coexist together. It allowed for viewers to see just how talented Russell is, which in turn brought to life such a damaged and sympathetic woman.

And then, there’s Andy Griffith’s Joe. He’s something else. He brings out a different type of quirkiness. He’s the older owner of the diner, but he’s not just some kind of cranky old guy. I find him to be more of an eccentric. An eccentric who takes a particular fatherly interest in Russell’s character. While he’s interacted with the others before, he’s too weird for them to want to interact with. So, we get mostly Russell in some wonderful scenes. We get drama and comedy and love. The relationship between these two is not what I expected. It’s something to admire, learn from, and hope for.

With all of these characters, quirks and all, existing in one place, there’s plenty reason to care about them, or dislike them. None are perfect, but you can get past that because they all want something more. They want happiness in a life that’s not really giving them that, even though they’re not asking for much. So enters drama. It’s the drama of living. The drama of having an affair, being bored in marriages, living with Sisto’s Earl and a desire to live a better life. While it sometimes seems that drama takes a bit of a backseat, it never really does. The instances, particularly with Russell as she’s the main character, are effective and linger well after they occur. It propels you beyond simple viewer, and that makes all the difference.

Pies The Limit

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I’d be silly if I didn’t mention the pies. This film, in part, is about pies. But the use of pies goes so much further than just making the audience’s mouths water and wishing they themselves had some sort of delicious pie sitting before them. No, the pies, like with the characters themselves, bring this particular world to life and gives the characters even more ways to come alive and feel real.

For one thing, Russell’s Jenna uses these pies as some kind of extension of herself. They’re how she works through things that occur in her life. For audiences it gives tremendous insights into the character and an easier way to like her, even when we probably shouldn’t. She may be angry, uncertain, happy, etc., and there’ll always be an opportunity to make a pie. They’re each fully creative and different, that it’s no wonder these pies receive the names they do. On top of this, it allows for the film, if only for a brief moment, to be funny. Sure there’s comedy already being woven in and out elsewhere, but it’s almost unexpected here. There’s something refreshing about being able to laugh at a dream sequence involving the creation of a certain kind of pie.

Speaking of pie names! I can’t help but love every single one. Shelly, as is evident from the entire film, really knew how to find the humor in something where there shouldn’t be any. She also, by using the names and the dream sequences, found a way to stretch her imagination and deliver an even better heroine. I think about “Bad Baby Pie” and what must possibly be in it. I also think of “Naughty Pumpkin Pie”, and how that’s probably not just some basic pumpkin pie with a different name. Yes, when Russell brought the pie with her you can see there’s something on top, but what? I couldn’t get a good enough look, so I’m not certain. But it speaks to how the pie isn’t just creatively made and given a name to fit whatever Jenna’s feeling or going through. Through and through, or so it seems at least, the pies themselves embody exactly what they’re supposed to. I can only imagine, as I don’t remember, what “Earl Murders Me Because I’m Having An Affair Pie” would look and taste like. Because of all the pie names, it also, as if you needed more reasons to love all the pies or the film itself, keeps with the overall quirky feeling Shelly was going for.

Another reason I love the ever present pies, is how it grows and deepens the relationship between Russell, Hines and Shelly. It’s on full display and provides another avenue to view them realistically. One phenomenal instance, of so many, is when they’re all making pies before they open for the day. They’re just standing side by side, working on pies, and conversing. Talking as friends do about their lives and laughing, enjoying the moment and furthering a friendship that’s been there for some time. Yes a bit of drama comes into play, but it doesn’t destroy what they have. It’s through this, especially with any other scene taking place in the diner, that viewers can just get a great understanding of what makes them and Lew Temple’s Cal and even Griffith’s Joe, seem more like one big family unit. There’s so much love for each other that as a viewer, it’s very familiar. Finding something relatable in these characters is not difficult at all, and sympathizing, when need be, is even easier.

For a film with a female lead, and two other important female characters, each who get their own focus and are pretty well developed by film’s end, this film gives so much for any kind of audience member. No matter if it’s your first viewing or second or some number much higher, it’s clear why this film works. It’s charming, funny and offers human insights we seldom get, especially from female characters and ones that can be helpful to anyone. Sure it’s slower than most would like, but it’s because of this pacing you get so many exceptional moments and can see these characters as more than fictional people.

Need an introduction or a reminder of why you should check out this film, look no further than below!

Funny And Charming Trailer:

Originally Released: May 2, 2007

Written and Directed: Adrienne Shelly

Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Jeremy Sisto and Andy Griffith

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One thought on “10 Years: “Waitress”

  1. I watched this movie a few months ago and honestly it was forgettable. Yes, it was alright and quirky, as you put, but overall, didn’t leave a huge mark. The only reason I watched it really was so I’d know the original before I saw (via bootleg) Waitress The Musical. I loved the musical. Not much changed via the plot but the beautiful music enhanced every emotion and character and really made the story deeper.

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