Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 November 2008
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock - http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
Like the ingredients in the 27 different offerings at Joe’s Pie Café in the little southern town of Redhook, Waitress can be a mixture of sensations and eccentricities, startling combinations that aren’t supposed to come together so well, but somehow work.
A bittersweet, thoughtful little film, highlighting the absurd through its deadpan humor, Waitress follows the life of Jenna Hunterson (Keri Russell) who has a knack for creating sinfully indulgent pies. Having just discovered that she’s pregnant, Jenna spends most of her time looking perplexed or catatonic or disappointed. Her immature, perpetually greasy-looking husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto) is an ignorant bully and all around pain in the ass. Inside an oyster, that type of irritant would result in a pearl, but there’s nothing lustrous about Earl. He’s an undereducated, loudmouthed, abusive hick, lacking any type of insight, and he’s not above physical altercations with his pregnant wife.
An intimidated Jenna mimics Earl’s demands robotically and he is stupid enough to believe her. He’ll demand, “Tell me that you love me,” and Jenna will say calmly, without a hint of passion or meaning, “I love you, Earl,” and the goon will believe it. You’ll be fervently praying for someone to give this guy the same kind of kneading a pie crust would take.
Fellow waitresses and best friends Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly) have problems of their own. Becky’s husband is a bed-ridden invalid and Dawn is serial dating, but only for 5 minutes at a time. Neither woman would trade places with Jenna, even though her man has “a full head of hair.”
The girls get Jenna a baby book which contains a Letters to Baby section, and she starts a correspondence full of feelings she can’t confess out loud. Full of resentment, several letters begin Dear Damn Baby. Through Jenna’s voiceover as events unfold around her; these letters help us understand her. The soft spoken, serene exterior does not convey the depth of her despair, but the letters are remarkably candid confessions to her fetus about the stagnant hopelessness that surrounds her. Example: She wants to enter a $25,000 pie contest, which Earl forbids, finding her nest egg, and forcing her to buy baby furniture instead.
There’s a new OB/GYN in town and it’s a man, not the Dr. Lily that Jenna’s been seeing all of her life. Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) is young, attractive and married. Jenna is both perplexed by and attracted to the new arrival (as she awaits her own). Romancing the OB/GYN seems inevitable. Although we understand why Jenna would stray, we are never made aware of Dr. Pomatter’s reason. His wife is a brilliant, beautiful medical resident, while Jenna, progressing in her pregnancy, gets as plump as if she were concealing a stolen Butterball turkey. The smitten doctor is initially won over by her Marshmallow Mermaid pie, and then something nameless in her demeanor that seemingly accounts for every implausible movie scene where two strangers fall into a passionate kiss in mid-sentence.
Joe’s Pie Café owner (Andy Griffith) is an insightful curmudgeon hiding behind complaints and criticism. He befriends Jenna as much as a curmudgeon can and offers her a small oasis with his ability to speak his mind without filters or niceties. Jenna is never afforded this luxury but appreciates it in others. Joe is also enthusiastically, almost orgasmically in love with Jenna’s pies.
Dawn has a subplot involving her 5-minute dating strategy which snags her some hilariously unwanted attention from a love struck suitor, Ogie (Eddie Jemison).
Shelly’s film is colorful and fairy-tale like, and some implausibility comes with it, but we root for almost everyone. Lingering shots of Jenna’s static facial expressions can be exasperating for the impatient. All Jenna has is time, and sometimes we are not willing to trudge along at her laborious pace. Filling deep dish pie crust after deep dish pie crust with sensual ingredients fulfills her otherwise stifling existence. As a waitress, Jenna does indeed wait.
Keri Russell has left whispery Felicity behind once and for all and now walks in grownup shoes (although one scene has her barefoot and pregnant, baking a Lonely Chicago pie with her OB/GYN lover.) Jeremy Sisto as the odious Earl is so good in his role that you’ll want to slap him when you see him. Nathan Fillion as the OB/GYN babe, loaded with charisma, should score leading roles soon, with work like this under his belt. Cheryl Hines as Becky is genuinely likeable and endlessly optimistic. Andy Griffith, as old Joe, is a veteran scene stealer and Eddie Jemison as Dawn’s beau Ogie, is a willing fool for love. Unfortunately Shelly, who brought the delightfully nerdy Dawn to life, would lose hers before the film’s debut at Sundance.
Several surprising developments and relationship changes will delight and gratify the viewer. Shelly stops just short of sappiness, concentrating instead on yearning, practicality, loneliness, freedom, and self determination. Knowledge of her fate makes Waitress all the more poignant, so indulge freely. We will have to make do with the knowledge that sadly, there won’t be any second helpings.