Waitress DVD: Review By Dodd

One of most poignant, tastiest films this year.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
One of most poignant, tastiest films this year.
THE BAD
I suppose the extras are not as strong as they could have been.
THE FEATURE
At the end of every year I think back on some of the best films that I've seen. Most of them manage to impress me because of their capability to get a real performance from an actor or tell a daring, original story. But every once in a blue moon a movie comes along that doesn't necessarily succeed on pretentious, art house levels, but instead makes me feel damned good. This is the type of film that does the same thing to me what How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days did to millions of easily-manipulated teen girls; it makes me feel giddy. In the past, Love, Actually has worked such magic on me. This year, the honorary "Excited as Schoolgirl on Prom Night" award goes to Waitress, a film that pulls off wonderful filmmaking and sweetness simultaneously.

Waitress follows title server Jenna (Keri Russell) throughout her crappy routine. It is not that Jenna is unhappy from her low-paying profession. Every morning, she stands in the kitchen and invents pies that the local townsfolk are dying to sink their teeth into. The tips may be lousy, but Jenna finds a sense of fulfillment in making such delectable treats. The main problem in Jenna's life is her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto). It is clear that the poor girl was born and raised in this small town and felt this local yocal pressure to marry her loser of a high school sweetheart. It is Earl who stands between Jenna and her dream of taking her pies to a contest where she could make big money. Matters are not bettered when she finds out from the new town physician Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) that she is carrying Earl's child after a "whoops" night of drinking and sex.

Just when Jenna thinks this pregnancy is the end all to her hopes, it turns out to be the catalyst for unexpected things. Take for example the steamy affair that she gets into with Dr. Pomatter. While a wrongful act of infidelity, it actually puts a shiny smile on Jenna's face; the type of smile indicating that Jenna realizes for the first time that such pleasure achievement can actually be found as long as you look for it and do not sadly accept the hand you are dealt. This affair also affects her at work when she pours ingredients into her pies that happen to be a reflection of what she thinks or feels. This odd behavior raises eyebrows amongst her co-workers (Cheryl Hines and Adrienne Shelly) as well as diner regular Old Joe (Andy Griffith), who comes in frequently to grumpily chow down on Jenna's creations.

The premise of Waitress is a very basic one that is made alive thanks to wonderful filmmaking, and strong performances, particularly from Keri Russell. Many assumed that the wide release of Waitress was in response to the sad death of director/co-star Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered just after wrapping up filmmaking. I am proud to say that Waitress is a film that would stand on both feet even if Shelly were still with us today. The former indie actress has created a film that makes us feel good because it is genuine, rather than going for cheap and emotional thrills. All of these characters felt like people I have known throughout my life from the conflicted Jenna to the abusive Earl. In addition to getting inside of these characters, Shelly also does a stupendous job of filming mouthwatering pies. There is no doubt that Waitress has done for pie sales what Sideways did for sales of pinot noir.

Keri Russell, who has taken a while to jump from television into leading film roles, is an absolute joy to watch as Jenna. As a human torn between accepting her subservient role as a "yes" wife and taking a walk on the wild side with her love affair and pie-making career, Russell has surely established herself as the next go-to name in Hollywood. It is difficult to not feel every bit of delight through her smiles or grief through her frowns. Nathan Fillion also turns in an impressive performance here that is reminiscent of Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant. While his character is supposed to be the "hunky doctor", he still plays Dr. Pomatter with convincing normality. Most of the comic relief comes from Hines as Jenna's outspoken co-worker, and Andy Griffith as a regular customer that takes a liking to Jenna despite his persistent codger mannerisms.
THE EXTRAS
This is How We Made Waitress Pie

The featurette is only O.K. It is convenient that Shelly was interviewed for the film so that her comments could be included here. However, a lot of it feels like a promo piece in which the actors throw out adjectives to describe the film and the characters they play. Plus it is heavy on footage from the film.

Adrienne Shelly Memorial

This is a genuinely tear-jerking memorial to the actress/filmmaker as the cast and crew may tribute to her. The sad music and comments accompany footage from the set of Shelly making her film. It is a truly heartbreaking thing that Shelly could not see for herself how much love audiences would have for this film.

Hi! I'm Keri, I'll Be Your Waitress

Here we get a montage of the actress's best scenes as Russell comments on her respect for the character and how Adrienne Shelly put so much love and care into creating this character. This is only five minutes and mediocre, but still worth watching for fans of Russell's charming performance.

The Pies Have It!

You guessed it! For two minutes we get a montage of the film's pies as the cast and crew comment on their favorite pies. Bring your appetite along with your favorite ready-made treat from your local grocer's bakery.

Commentary

The contributors here are Keri Russell and producer Michael Roiff. Listening to this is yet another reminder that Shelly is no longer with us. Russell and Roiff seem a tad uneasy and are not into it 100%. This could definitely use wise words from the writer/director, who surely would have been a part of this track.

Features also include promo interviews originally debuted on Fox Movie Channel, and a special message from Keri Russell about the Adrienne Shelly Foundation.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. Director Adrienne Shelly made this film with love and care. She captures everything from vivid pies to human emotion so well.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital 5.1. The sweet score from Andrew Hollander is poignant throughout the film, but the real kudos goes to "Baby Don't You Cry" writer by Hollander and Shelly. There won't be a dry eye in the house as this plays during the closing credits.
THE PACKAGE
Once again, I did not receive a DVD case from 20th Century Fox. I will say that the one I crafted myself from computer paper and a discarded rental case is pretty nifty.
THE FINAL WORD
Waitress is a feel-good movie that is handled with extra care. The movie is funny, sad, and joyous because it is about people exhibiting the quirks that we come to expect from those we encounter in life. There are no hidden agendas of pretentious art or sappy melodrama here. This is a genuine dramedy that had me engaged from start to finish. This is also the perfect date movie that both men and women are sure to appreciate. I am ecstatic about adding this to my collection, and I hope you are too when you buy this DVD.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

Do you like this review?

Comments