Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple
Director: Adrienne Shelly
SUNY Purchase '05
"I don't compromise my values and I don't compromise my work. I won't give in." -Michael Moore
Review By: Rocco Passafuime
Adrienne Shelley was an actress who began to also make her mark as a budding screenwriter and filmmaker. However, her life and career were tragically cut short after she was found murdered at her New York apartment in November 2006.
Now after having written four previous films and directing only two, Shelly released what sadly ended up being the last film she'd ever direct. It's none other than the romantic comedy Waitress, now available on DVD.
Jenna (Keri Russell) is a Southern woman with a lot on her plate. She has a controlling and downright near-abusive husband named Earl (Jeremy Sisto) who gets her pregnant after he gets her plied with alcohol and an underappreciated job as a waitress at Joe's Pie Diner.
At the diner, Jenna has a pair of co-workers who are her closest friends, extroverted Becky (Cheryl Hines) and introverted Dawn (Adrienne Shelly). She gets praise from them and others for her uncanny talents as a pie maker, while being snubbed by her cold supervisor Cal (Lew Temple) and the restaurant's seemingly colder owner Old Joe (Andy Griffith).
Her husband Earl is so discouraging that she bars Jenna from doing much of anything, including entering a pie bake-off competition. However, her secret motive for wanting to enter the contest includes leaving her spouse and her small town to start fresh with her life.
On top of her problems, Jenna, despite deciding to keep her baby, is not looking forward to having a child at all. However, her determination to find a way out of her predicaments are enhanced when her new physician, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), begins taking an active interest in his new patient and they begin what leads to a passionate secret affair.
Waitress is certainly noteworthy for being sharper and more interesting than your average romantic comedy. Part of this are the quirky and very layered characters inserted throughout the film, from Andy Griffith's often disapproving, yet still endearing owner to Jeremy Sisto's surprisingly developed abusive lout of a husband.
However, it is undoubtedly star Keri Russell who shines brightest here as she manages to fill her incredibly complex waitress character with likable charm at every turn. While the movie does suffer from a lack of focus in its script in terms of the story's development, it makes up for it in spades for its unusual ability to present the film's situations in an honest and often blunt matter and yet still have a fairly light tone.
The DVD is presented in the 1:85:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, with the sound quality in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. The DVD also contains plenty of special features.
The first is audio commentary featuring producer Michael Roiff and actress Keri Russell, which is mostly light-hearted, but also fairly informative. Much of the other special features are featurettes featuring interviews with Adrienne Shelly, through archived
The first one "This Is How We Make Waitress Pie"Â goes into the conception and production of the film. "Written And Directed By Adrienne Shelly: A Memorial"Â is a tribute to the late actress and filmmaker from the participants.
"Hi! I'm Keri. I Will Be Your Waitress"Â focuses on Keri Russell as she talks about her character. "The Pies Have It"Â briefly focuses on the many different pies shown over the course of the film.
"In Character With"Â¦"Â are a series of Fox Movie Channel promos which interviews actors Russell, Cheryl Hines, and Nathan Fillion as they talk about their roles in the film. Rounding out the special features is a promotional featurette for the Adrienne Shelly Foundation presented by Russell.
All in all, Waitress proves to be a rather abrupt and bittersweet end for Shelly's career, particularly as a filmmaker. While the film suffers from being a bit unorganized in its set up, it's clear that Shelly's incredible gift for creating stories with characters that are both honest and likable here reveals plenty of real distinctive potential as a filmmaker that will unfortunately never have the chance to ever be fully realized.
Movie Grade: A
DVD Features Grade: A
Overall Grade: A