Waitress Review

It's odd, but Keri Russell was on television for about 4 years and I never watched her show. Not once. Felicity and I ne'er crossed paths. I didn't think twice about watching that show. I merely figured there were other more talented shows being propagated throughout the big media machine. Waitress makes me think I may have missed something. If Waitress was an accurate sampling of Keri's dryness...I fear I made a mistake in avoiding Keri programming for all these years. Waitress, a movie I originally only wanted to see for Nathan Fillion, gave me a kick upside the head.

Jenna (Russell) hates her life. Her co-workers hate her life too. At least everyone's agreed. Despite Jenna's propensity for baking pies and her new pregnancy her fellow waitresses Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly) wouldn't switch places with her. The reason: Earl, Jenna's abusive husband. Earl is a one man-show in a marriage he doesn't realize is over. For you see, Jenna has big plans: to run away. She's been planning her escape for years and the time is almost right. Correction: was almost right. When Earl discovers Jenna's pregnancy - and the thousands of dollars for Jenna's runaway fund stashed around the house - he becomes more controlling than ever.
But running away isn't the only plan that's come to Jenna's mind recently. It turns out her new OBGYN is the man she's been looking for her entire life, Dr. Pomatter. Of course, for drama's sake, he's married. And yet their steamy behind-closed-doctor's-examination-room-curtains affair continues unabated.

Keri Russell performs fantastically and, as I've said, makes me regret not having paid attention to her career up until now. Her wry and dry character receives an extra charge from Russell's dazzling looks and charm. The character of Jenna is already inherently interesting due to its examination of a woman trying to break away from an abusive husband, but Jenna becomes increasingly interesting as her efforts to avoid abuse and find happiness outside of the marriage seem to set off something within her. Keri Russell is a superb actress that I hope will garner more attention in the years to come.

Nathan Fillion...what to say here? All you Firefly/Serenity fans have wanted to see this man succeed for some time now. Nathan does indeed perform well in Waitress but still I worry. Dr. Pomatter is essentially Firefly's Captain ‘Mal' Reynolds reframed with a new costume and put into an OBGYN setting. With the same style of delivery and awkward bashful nature - it's safe to say that Nathan Fillion didn't have to shift gears in his acting to play this part. However, this isn't to say it's bad - just that fans of cultish Joss Whedon TV shows will be at ease during the movie due to the familiar presence. In fact, Nathan is fantastic and complements Keri's acting perfectly.
Cheryl Hines and Adrienne Shelly do splendidly as the flirtatious and reserved (respectively) co-workers of Jenna. From impromptu dating advice to unending explanations of why they don't envy Jenna's situation, the co-workers are a perfect blend of Southern straight-talking and sweetness.

Jeremy Sisto deserves special attention for his excellent portrayal of an abusive and manipulative husband who just can't seem to put two and two together. By the end of the film, both Jenna and the audience will never want to see the fictitious ‘Earl' ever again. Earl is adolescence incarnate, an immature adult who needs control over every aspect of his simple life. Sadly, Jenna can do naught but placate Earl's wants and desires as she lacks any leverage or power whatsoever. That's exactly how Earl would have it. Sisto played a believable character and I'd bet the script played a large part in feeling out the shallow nature of the character.

Waitress is a comedic gem that sadly will be or was overlooked by many due to its Indy film background. The film was debuted in festivals in January and didn't receive circulation until late May. Everyone in Waitress does their part superbly and the movie shines through. I hope this film gets more recognition - it certainly deserves it.

"Waitress" opens May 11, 2007 and is rated PG13. Comedy, Drama. Written and directed by Adrienne Shelly. Starring Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion.

Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.


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