A pie on a plate is worth two in the sky,
So if your life’s sucking your happiness dry
With an unloving spouse
Or a big lonely house
Or the latest annoyance you greet with a sigh,
Don’t run off and have a clandestine affair,
Not even with someone with Mal Reynolds’ hair.
Just sit yourself down
And flip over that frown
With a big piece of pie to suspend your despair.
‘Tis the good kind of guilt when you pick from the shelf
A pie (if you want; I’m a cake man myself).
MPAA rating: PG-13
After seeing Waitress recently for the first time, my VC liked it enough that she insisted I review it as one of her picks. Directed, written, and co-starring the late Adrienne Shelly and recently adapted into a Broadway musical, Waitress might have had one main draw at first glance, my VC’s beloved Nathan Fillion, but as we watched it (two nights in a row actually), its overall appeal became more apparent. It’s an unconventional love story full of wry small-town charm and a craveable passion for pie. Seriously, there’s a lot of delicious pies on display, though they make them look far easier to prepare than in reality.
Keri Russell plays Jenna, whose waitress job at a Southern pie diner is one of the only things her cloddish husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) will let her do. He’s so needy and controlling that Jenna feels positively smothered and eager to leave him, even dreaming up pies named in his dishonor, and thus she’s none too thrilled when she discovers she’s pregnant. On her first prenatal visit to the gynecologist, in comes Nathan Fillion as Dr. Pomatter, certainly no Mal Reynolds (his character from Firefly) but a likably nervous sort, and one can see his awkward chemistry with Jenna a mile away. In a predictable version of this story, there would probably be an affair with passionate smooching and a confrontation between the men and maybe a breakup before a final tearjerking declaration of love, but Waitress only borrows a few such aspects, clinging to cynical honesty before yielding to surprising sweetness. My VC was glad they kept the passionate smooching with Fillion, though.
Films aiming for quirk don’t always come off as realistic. I love the provincial antics in Doc Hollywood, for instance, but it’s full of movie characters rather than people I might expect to find in a real Southern town. Waitress has some of the same earnest loopiness but toned down to believable levels. (Okay, that may not apply to the ridiculously love-struck date of one of Jenna’s coworkers, but hey, it’s still a comedy.) The dialogue often reaches gentle amusement rather than big laughs, not only because of the dramatic side of Jenna’s depressing life but because real life isn’t always full of zingers. Sometimes, eloquence is found in frank simplicity, such as an unexpectedly straight answer about life from Jenna’s surly boss.
Aside from the underplayed pro-life aspect of Jenna respecting her baby’s “right to thrive” despite not really wanting it, I admired how the characters were gradually developed. Most come off rather unlikable at first, whether it be Jenna’s demanding boss or the diner’s schadenfreude-prone owner Joe (Andy Griffith). Only over time are their more sympathetic facets revealed without undercutting their prickly exteriors. Even Earl with all of his loathsome clinginess shows a few glimpses of affection that could have once convinced Jenna to marry him. In addition, an important scene toward the end speaks to the immediacy of meeting someone face to face. Jenna sees two previously unseen characters for the first time, completely changing her opinions of them and the direction of her life. While what follows isn’t the fairy tale ending that one might hope or expect, it’s sweetly realistic and mature on Jenna’s part.
By the end of Waitress, my VC and I weren’t quite sure how to feel about it, but after thought, a rewatch, and some craving for pie, we both agreed in the simplest of terms: we liked it. (Did I mention, though, that she loved watching Nathan Fillion? Women.)
Best line: (Dawn, played by Shelly, speaking of her awkward beau) “They are poems that just occur to him on the spot. Last night, he said to me, ‘Dawn, your face is a brilliant moon in my empty room. Your love is like a beating drum. Ba bum ba bum ba bum ba bum.’”
VC’s best line: (Jenna, writing to her unborn baby) “Dear Baby, I hope someday somebody wants to hold you for twenty minutes straight, and that’s all they do. They don’t pull away. They don’t look at your face. They don’t try to kiss you. All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight, without an ounce of selfishness to it.”
Rank: List Runner-Up
© 2016 S. G. Liput
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