Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Waitress" a winner

If anything, I've been a victim of my own high expectatons so far this summer. Both "Spider-Man 3" and "Shrek 3," though for very different reasons, failed to deliver what I wanted.

And I had almost equally high expectations going into "Waitress," partly because Adrienne Shelly's last movie had been getting such good reviews and partly because it just looked like a movie about Southerners who act like the people I see here everyday. And for the first time this summer, I certainly wasn't disappointed.

It didn't hurt that, for the 10 a.m. showing Saturday morning (man, do I love summer!), we were the only two people there. Though it takes place in a somewhat-too-sugary version of the real world, Shelly's movie works best as a fairy tale, and the private screening somehow just made it seem even moreso.

But, before I get ahead of myself, a little about the very familiar story. Keri Russell plays the titular "Waitress," who finds herself stuck in a loveless marriage and rather unfortunately pregnant. When she goes to see her OB/GYN to talk about it, she finds there's a new doctor in town, played by Nathan Fillion (huzzah!)

And when Shelly's movie works best is when they're on screen together. The problem I have with most romantic comedies is that there's no real chemistry between the leads, but Keri and Captian Mal just click here. She doesn't quite have the "aw shucks!" to pull off your classic Southern waitress, but Shelly doesn't make her. Keri's Jenna is a little too beaten down by life for that, and she plays it very well. And Captian Mal gives the doctor just enough character to get you past the considerable ick factor that he's a married man pitching woo at one of his OB/GYN patients.

And the supporting cast pitch in well here too. Jeremy Sisto, who you might remember as Billy on "Six Feet Under," is appropriately menacing as Jena's husband, but never a cartoonish figure. One thing I liked was how his honking the horn to announce his arrival anywhere steadily grows from funny to dangerous. And Andy Griffith, who I'm always a sucker for, is just perfect as the diner owner and Jena's father figure.

Now, don't get me wrong: This isn't a perfect movie. In parts, especially when it comes to Shelly's fellow waitress and her nerdy suitor, it's too cute by half, and the pie-making as scene framing never quite works. And, like I said, you won't find anything here you haven't seen before. But as escapist summer fare, it's lighter than air in all the best ways, and a great way to spend a couple of hours.

And best of all, it's so enjoyable that I didn't even think about the death of Adrienne Shelly until we were heading out to the parking lot. For anyone who doesn't know, Shelly was murdered last fall in her NYC apartment after having the nerve to ask her neighbor to turn down his radio. As a parting gift to us, she really could have done a whole lot worse than this sweet pastry.


Linda said...

Well said. I loved this film. Refreshing to have a story told in such a charming way. Love the summer blockbusters, but Waitress is a breath of fresh air this summer.

Divinity said...

It really is a cinematic treat. They really stand out - sweet, clever, genuine, and satisfying. I guess we can thank the hours and hours of celluloid chaff that gets churned out for making us appreciate it when something like this comes along.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're both definitely right about this one .. I was surprised that a movie like this would come out in summer, and after watching so many blockbusters already, I'm glad it did

Jake Mabe said...

Saw it this afternoon. Great flick. Just what I needed after going 10 rounds with kidney stones. At its best, this film feels ripped out of a Flannery O'Connor short story. Four stars for sure!

Marina said...

I still haven't seen it. I hope to get to it at some point this week!

Reel Fanatic said...

Not sure I saw the Flannery O'Connor angle, Jake, so that's definitely something I'll have to think on ... I think I was just too busy smiling to think that much about it while the movie was unfolding before me

lylee said...

Saw this movie a while ago, and still haven't had time to blog a review yet (work...groan). I will say that I was rather impressed by Keri Russell. She can do tart, and I don't mean in the slutty sense. I think her performance actually saved the movie from becoming too sentimental. And how cute was Nathan Fillion?

I couldn't help wondering how the movie would have worked if Fillion and Sisto had swapped roles. Not as well, I think. The romance would have been cutsier, but the abusive marriage a lot darker. The one thing that made Jenna staying in the marriage believable was the fact that Sisto's character was more of a big baby (albeit a very unpleasant one) than a big bad guy.

Reel Fanatic said...

Like you, I just can't see how it would have possibly worked with the roles switched, Lylee ... Sisto did indeed give his character just the right mix of extreme immaturity with less menace than he thought he was projecting