Saturday, February 02, 2008

WAITRESS: Keri Russell's Show

WAITRESS (comedy)

Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto and Andy Griffith
Writer-Director: Adrienne Shelly (Pic: Russell & Griffith)
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? "Waitress" is mainly a women's movie which may also delight fans of light social comedy. Its tone is rather inconsistent but, like "Juno", its lead star, Keri Russell, will have you eating out of her hand in no time.

Meanwhile, here's what I have found out about its director Adrienne Shelly: Shelly was an independent film actress who began directing movies in the late 1990s. She was murdered on Nov 1, 2006 in Manhattan while working on post-production for "Waitress". The film was completed after her death and shown at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. This tragedy provides a bittersweet touch to the movie, especially since she has a supporting acting role in the movie too.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? Well, it is about Jenna (Russell), a waitress at a diner who specialises in pies. She is a maverick at creating and baking pies. Jenna has pies for every occasion and her fellow waitresses, the motherly Becky (Cheryl Hines) and the mousy Dawn (Shelly), are in awe of her culinary marvels. However, Jenna's domestic life is a mess. Her husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), is a mean bully who uses fear and threats to keep his wife in check.

Jenna has planned to leave Earl but an unexpected pregnancy complicates things for her. She visits a lucom, Dr Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), and starts a torrid affair with him. This creates yet another problem in Jenna's troubled life, but she finds solace in her colleagues - and a grumpy old Joe (Andy Griffith) who is also the owner of the diner.
HITS & MISSES: "Waitress" starts off as one of those cute Disney-type family comedies, offering delicious pies as a therapy for all ills - and even as a means to win a man's heart. However, the mood turns bleak whenever Sisto gets into the picture as the abusive hubby. Sisto seems to overplay the villain role - until he reveals the tortured, insecure man halfway intio the movie.

The 'quickie' affair between Jenna and Pomatter looks like it has come straight from a pulp romance novel. However, it works because the lovers are so likable. Russell is all sweetness and vulnerability - with a hint of resolve in her eyes. She is easy to fall for while Fillion will make any female heart a-flutter. The late Shelly is wonderful in a nicely developed subplot about Dawn being 'stalked' by a nerd who composes poetry off the cuff, while Hines plays the brassy worker we find in every diner. Also, it is a nice treat to have veteran sitcom star Griffith back in action.

However, with its theme that resilience will be rewarded and meanness punished, "Waitress" does not set out to be a feel good movie. It just makes us feel good watching it.

THE LOWDOWN: Like "Juno" and "Knocked Up", this comedy about a pregnant woman is both uplifting and delightful.


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