Arriving to much critical appraise, Waitress walked into barely over seven hundred theaters and walked out of its twenty-five week run in the states with nearly twenty million. While not a huge success overseas, the film certainly found its audience in the States, with a cast of individuals that brought the late Adrienne Shelly’s script to life with the wit, charm and unique style that Shelly put into the story.
Working as a pie maker and hating every moment of her life with her husband, Jenna (Keri Russell) has a series of plans to get away from her current life and make it on her own. Unfortunately with these plans comes a sudden detour: Jenna learns she’s pregnant. While she tries to hide it from her boss and most important of all, her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), Jenna does her best to stick to her plans, even though a baby is now in the mix. For Jenna, however, it seems her plans were never meant to be as she slowly falls in love and has an affair with her gynecologist, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Filion). Jenna’s eventually forced to tell her husband about the baby and just when it seems nothing could get worse, she finally has her child and in the moment when she holds her baby for the first time, everything becomes clear.
I’m not one to watch romantic comedies, let alone review them, but there were a few elements of Waitress that intrigued me enough to want to review it. For one, Nathan Fillion was in the film and my being such a fan of Firefly, I wanted to see how he was in other roles. The bigger reason was that the film had garnered such praise for it for reasons beyond the “romantic comedy” aspect—it was a quirky comedy that wasn’t exactly in the same vein as, say, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. With this is in mind I knew the experience wasn’t exactly going to be your standard fare.
My immediate reaction after watching the film was one of dislike. I honestly didn’t really enjoy what I watched and found the film more depressing than truly funny in any way. Any enjoyment I pulled from the film didn’t come until the viewing of the DVD extras, notably the commentary. I also made a conscious effort going in to try to not let the extremely shocking and sad death of Adrienne Shelly not affect my mood when watching it, so I could accurately judge the film. In the end I think her death just made you think of the film in a different light, rather than just a standard romantic comedy.
Waitress’s strong points were in the writing and the actors cast. Each one of the actors were superbly cast for their characters, from Russell to Fillion to Sisto, it was hard not to grow attached to some of these characters for their quirks alone, even if not all of them were likeable. Andy Griffith’s role as Old Joe was especially impactful on the film, in more ways than one. He greatly influenced Jenna’s outlook on life and Jeremy Sisto’s role as Earl left you wondering whether he was really just a jerk or messed up in the head a bit.
While the film left you feeling unsure where it was going throughout, it did keep your attention, never once slowing down or going too fast for the audience. The film kept a steady pace and threw in jokes that weren’t always in-your-face and instead were of the more subtle variety. One bit that still stands out in my mind is Fillion’s delivery of his “I cannot wait for Friday” in such a deadpan manner that you couldn’t help but laugh for a few seconds afterwards.
It’s still hard for me to gauge where I stand with Waitress exactly, which is strange because it really shouldn’t be that difficult of a film to pinpoint. The triumph of Jenna over the odds at the end and everyone ending up as happy in the end is really just the perfect ending and it doesn’t leave you wanting more. After seeing all that Jenna went through, it was nice to see her succeed in all of her dreams, alongside her new daughter that all throughout the film she lamented that she didn’t want. As long as you go into the film with the right mindset, it’s easily Recommended—just don’t expect your standard romantic comedy from Waitress. It has a lot more quirks in it than any viewers may be used to, which is what will be the main hindrance for many people.
Waitress arrives on DVD in both wide and full screen editions and comes in a standard DVD amaray case. Inside is an insert for the Adrienne Shelly Foundation (www.adrienneshellyfoundation.org>), detailing the mission statement for the organization as well as details on the staff. Disc art is a pie and the main menu is animated with music, while submenus are static and without music. Video and audio for the release is your standard fare, with a superb 1.85:1 transfer and an adequate sound mix, although rarely do you hear anything except from the front channels (as can be expected from a comedy/drama).
Extras for the set include the aforementioned commentary with producer Michael Roiff and Keri Russell. A lot of the commentary is discussion about Shelly on the set and what she was like to work with, but there’s also plenty of discussion about the film’s production as well. A quick featurette, “This Is How We Made Waitress Pie”, goes over the production of the film and features cast and crew interviews. “Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelly: A Memorial” has cast and crew reminiscing about Shelly’s time on the set and “Hi! I’m Keri, I’ll Be Your Waitress” focuses on Keri Russell’s role in the film. A short “The Pies Have it!” featurette where the cast names their favorite pies and three “Fox Movie Channel presents In Character” segments with Nathan Fillion, Keri Russell and Cheryl Hines talking about their characters and what of themselves they put in the roles.
Overall the DVD is a bit short on the extras, but for such a film it’s what you’d expect. Like the film, the DVD comes Recommended, but only if you know what you’re in for. Those unsure if they’ll enjoy the film may want to give it a Rental first.
Waitress is now available on DVD.