But that aside (hehehe) I watched this because the musical's coming up and I've been listening to the songs on repeat for days now. I wouldn't exactly say this is my favorite romcom but it is sweet and quirky enough for me to enjoy it's length! Also, ALL THOSE PIES. My mouth was watering.
But trouble is brewing. While she isn't quite happy with her reality, she's doing well enough - so imagine her surprise when she discovers that she's pregnant. She doesn't want to have a baby; at least not right now, having a brute of a husband and wanting nothing more than to leave him immediately. She considers her options. She can (a) have an abortion, (b) give the child up for adoption, (c) move to another state and raise the baby on her own, or (d) throw her hands up in surrender and start a dysfunctional family with the man of her nightmares. At first, she's most inclined to undergo a combination of b and c, but after going through the motions of ultrasounds and frequent visits to the doctor, she finds herself actually wanting this child. How she'll raise it is a conflict.
Things are especially complicated when she spontaneously begins having an affair with her physician, Jim (Nathan Fillion), and when she begins recording her thoughts on life and love to someday give to her unborn child. Throughout her nine months does she get to know herself better than before, her spitfire ways no longer tucked away in mild-manneredness; she's going to have a good life someday, and we have a feeling that she knows it too. To get away from her current one is the only thing stopping her from reinventing herself.
In the years since its release in 2007, "Waitress" has frequently been compared to Martin Scorsese's often ignored "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (1974) and the sitcom that followed it, "Alice" (1976-1985), and I can think of no comparison more fitting. Parallel in their ability to make us want to hug ourselves during much of its length, and their capability to make bittersweetness ring as true as moments of authentic dramatic agony, they're all versatile, lovable works. One forgets how difficult it is to translate delight onto the screen without coming across as artificial.
"Waitress" is a lovely little film, and the fact that it was the first and only major directorial/writing project from actress Adrienne Shelly is enraging. Before it was ever released, she was, in a twist of fate, brutally murdered, never to see her film receive the critical acclaim it so deeply deserved. The amiability of the film is heightened and perhaps even a little darkened because of the tragedy that hovers over its name; this is a work that suggests that Shelly could have had a long, prosperous career as a filmmaker. Not a decent-to-average but nevertheless acceptable movie made by an actor wanting to try different things, "Waitress" is genuinely something special, a reintroduction to an outstanding talent with the potential to be a second Nora Ephron. A beautiful legacy it is - we can only fantasize about the great things Shelly would have accomplished in her lifetime had her life not been taken so abruptly.
Because this is a film that has the substance to back up its whimsical tendencies; Shelly has written a cast of characters all three-dimensional and lived in. Notice how she makes the abusive husband role also have saltings of vulnerability rarely seen in film, how its titular waitress is followed around by two gal pals quirky but also human themselves, and how the man with whom she has the affair is nice and handsome but also devoted to his responsibilities, as most are. We're witnesses to complex, if sometimes rosy, lives, and Shelly makes such conceptions seem fluent. But best of all is her waitress, Jenna Hunterson, who is played by Russell with multi-faceted distinction and who is one of the best female characters of the 2000s. Feisty but also careful and smart, we come to love the flawed Jenna, from the way she obsessively bakes pies to escape her problems to the way she remains in control in every sort of situation. Russell is magnificent, and we have Shelly to thank for providing her with a detailed, heartfelt role.
Films like "Waitress" come around all too rarely; directors and writers are perhaps too scared to tread in sugary waters, afraid that, in an attempt to be both sticky and sweet, they'll still seem soft and fattening. Not "Waitress." A wonderful film as subtly funny as it is warm and realistically dramatic, it's a fine example of fluff going far and wide. Turns out you can be amusing and congenial without floating away into the wind, without being forgotten by its audiences days after initial viewing. Surprise.