12.05.2007

Waitress


By all accounts this film should not work. And well... it doesn't, not quite. It might however, work enough.

It's a cartoon in many ways. Some of the music cues are way over the top, and the actors deal with the material with different degrees of success. Keri Russell, for example, is great as Jenna, the waitress of the title. There is one extended sequence of shots where she has an exaggerated bewildered look on her face, a look which then turns into an ecstatic smile for the next couple, and it is perfect, somehow. But aside from hers all the characters are fairly one-dimensional, the two other waitresses most egregiously: they each get their perfectly predictable plot development, but character development, apparently, was too much to ask. As for Jenna's husband, he's supposed to be both a laughingstock and genuinely threatening, and that simply doesn't work

But let's get to the things that DO work. Mostly, that's the chemistry because Nathan Fillion's Dr. Pommater and Jenna. Every time they kiss I felt it. Now, admittedly, I do have a long-standing crush on Cap'n Tight-Pants, but still. And I loved how refreshing the film's take on adultery was: the film admits that it's a foolish, potentially hurtful thing to do, but in the film it doesn't need to lead to a terrible conclusion, and it even has some positive consequences. This is the kind of nuance and realism sorely lacking from the sexualisation-of-our-culture debate currently going on in the Netherlands.

And then there's the pies. Oh, I wish I could bake pies like that. They are gorgeous and odd and delicious-looking, and having Jenna give them names like "I don't want Earl's baby-pie" is a gimmick that works. In the end, the film doesn't quite manage to reconcile the quirks on the surface with the truly depressing content, but this is a little film worth watching.

A film, too, with a worthwhile message: maybe it's best, indeed, to settle for being "happy enough".

5 comments:

cjKennedy said...

This is near the top of my pile of things to see next. I've been totally slacking in the DVD department lately, but it's time to start catching up on a few of the titles that slipped through the cracks in 2007.

Congrats on the Rotterdam accreditation! I hope you get a chance to see tons of movies and I look forward to hearing all about it.

cjKennedy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cjKennedy said...

Ok, I caught Waitress and I have to say I think I liked it better than I thought I would.

I haven't decided if I'm going to write a full review or not, but for now suffice it to say it was far from perfect, yet it got enough right that I was glad I watched it.

The cartoon characters didn't bother me, this was really Russell's film (and besides they were all pretty funny), but the husband troubled me. I think it would've been a more effective story if he'd been more realistic. He was such a stereotype, for me it tended to minimize her suffering. It was the one area that needed to be believable and I just wasn't buying it.

Hedwig said...

The scenes with the husband were intriguing to me. You're right that they clash with the rest of the film, and the silliness of it undercuts his menace a little bit, but I thought Sisto played it quite well, ridiculous one moment but never losing that shade of danger.

I did think the way she responded was odd, and incriminated her in a way: you get the feeling that he might have gotten this way because she mostly goes along with it. Then again, you're never sure if she goes along with it because he might explode at any moment, instead.

cjKennedy said...

Don't get me wrong, Sisto was great, but the character as written just didn't feel like a real person and I felt, unlike the other characters, he needed to be.

As a man, I'm not really comfortable judging a woman's response to finding herself in an abusive relationship. Just leaving seems like such an obvious move, but for one reason or another so many women don't do it.

In Russell's defense, he wasn't that way until she married him.