Sweet Keri Pie
To try and box "Waitress" as a certain type of movie is hard because whilst there is drama, romance and comedy it's more than just that it's quirky, unusual and simply different to the majority of movies which you would classify as a romantic comedy or romantic drama. And being different to the norm it is also a movie which at times is hard going with the quirkiness of it being so in your face that it leaves you unsure how you feel. Yet "Waitress" is a movie which grows on you, you begin to warm to the different purposely false humour, the story of Jenna so wonderfully played by Kerri Russell and by the time the credits roll it leaves you feeling satisfied that you've watched something which is different and entertaining. It also leaves you feeling sad when you learn that Adrienne Shelly who wrote, directed and also appeared as one of Jenna's friends was killed before the movie was finished.
With an unhappy marriage to the abusive Earl (Jeremy Sisto), Jenna (Keri Russell - Mission: Impossible III) is desperately trying to put away what ever money she can so that she can escape her husband. But her plans go awry when she discovers she is pregnant and whilst not happy about it decides to have the baby. It is because of this she meets Dr. Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion - Slither) and immediately embarks on a passionate affair with him despite the fact that he is also married. As time passes and the birth is coming quickly things become much harder as she can't bear to be with Earl whilst the sneaking around with Dr. Pomatter gets harder and harder. The only constant she has in her life is her love of baking pie and the hope that she can get to a pie baking contest and win the big money prize to allow her to escape the mess that her life has become.
The strength of "Waitress" is that it manages to deliver a storyline which is both a drama and romance but also funny without it ever softening the blow of the drama. That drama comes from the story of Jenna who desperately wants to leave her controlling husband Earl and Adrienne Shelly does not shy away of painting him as a vile being. We witness his relentless humiliation of his wife, the obnoxious way he demeans her and at times physically attacks her, it's not the most visual domestic violence you will see in a movie but the effect of Jenna being slapped still hits home. This side alone makes us champion Jenna and long for her to find away of moving on from Earl even if she is carrying his baby which leads to another dramatic angle because throughout the pregnancy it is clear that she doesn't want his child, it's not a joyous occasion for her.
Alongside this domestic drama you then have the romantic side as she embarks on an affair with her doctor and it is a very balanced approach to adultery. What I mean is that whilst on one hand you have Jenna coming alive in the presence of Dr. Jim Pomatter and enjoying the fact that the attention he garners on her is real unlike that which Earl gives her. You then have the other side where Jenna struggles with the affair not only because of Earl but also because Dr. Pomatter is also married. It lays way to some tender moments, both romantic and also dramatic as the story leads the way for Jenna to make some important decisions.
And this romantic element also paves the way for plenty of humour and a scene which sees Jenna spend the entire day with a huge smile fixed to her face is both strange and very amusing. And that is the thing about the humour in "Waitress" as it is all very in your face and purposefully fake with an over the top quirkiness. From the way Jenna comes up with pie recipes which express her emotions to the way the camera circles around her and Dr. Pomatter when ever they kiss it's strange but also very funny. And so are the other characters from Dawn and Becky her waitress friends being over the top through to the wonderfully cantankerous Old Joe played by a brilliant Andy Griffith, they are strange but so funny.
All of this combines to make a movie which to start with takes you by surprise right from the opening credits as we witness several of Jenna's delectable pie creations. But the longer it goes on the more it grows on you, the more you feel for Jenna in her unhappy marriage, charmed by the way she comes to life and radiates beauty in the presence of Dr. Pomatter and whilst there is a certain predictability to how it ends when you get there you will have felt like you have watched something genuinely very good. Even the quirkiness of the very fake comedy will have grown on you and the over the top quirkiness will bring smile after smile rather than surprise and shock as it does to start with.
A huge reason as to why "Waitress" works come down to the brilliant performances from all the cast be it the amusingly cantankerous Andy Griffith or the purposefully stilted delivery from Nathan Fillion as Dr. Jim Pomatter. But it is very much Keri Russell as Jenna who makes it work and it is her who we take to are hearts. We feel for this young woman who fears Earl, who almost cowers when he shows up to pick her up from work yet we watch as she turns from down trodden to a beauty when she is around Dr. Pomatter. We take joy in this because Russell makes the change in character work, we like the fact that she feels alive and in love and champion this side. And on top of this she makes the fake humour work as well and carries off the long scene where she spends the day with a fixed smile perfectly.
What this all boils down to is that "Waitress" is a very special movie one which is a romantic-comedy and drama but one which is much more and very different to the norm. It does catch you by surprise especially the almost weirdness of the intentionally forced humour but it grows on you quickly till you become engrossed in the drama and charmed by the lovely Jenna. And never has a movie made me so hungry when in the first few minutes we have witness an array of such delectable and imaginative pies.