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Romantic comedies are a dime a dozen in these times, and while I enjoy the laughs that go along with that fluttery feeling us woman get while watching these pieces, often as not, they’re not worth the time spent microwaving the popcorn.

Every now and again though, an original story comes poking into the market, and though small, it’s sweet story and honest laughs make it a gem of a movie. Waitress is one of those gems. While there have been food-based romances before (Chocolat being a well-known example), Waitress is refreshing, using pies as a tasty counterpart to the story’s emotions and events.

This is Adrianne Shelly’s final film, as she was tragically murdered last year. But this film is a wonderful lasting effort by her. Not only does she show her directing chops, with a quickly paced, but lovingly told story, she also stars, and wrote the story to begin with. And what a lovely story it is.

Waitress circles around young Jenna (Keri Russell), a waitress at the local diner, who is stuck in a loveless marriage. When she becomes pregnant, her plans for escape are put on hold, while she struggles with her control freak misogynist of a husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), her job (and love) making pies, and her newfound affection for her obstetrician, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion).

Waitress swings from poignant, to painful, to hilarious in short strokes, not lingering anywhere too long. Its pacing is excellent, keeping the watcher engaged, but not feeling like things are taking too long. It’s all told sweetly and with little in the way of empty time.

Russell fits into the role of Jenna well, though her accent does sound a little flat. Her monologues to her unborn child, in the form of letters to the baby are some of the more “aww” moments of the film, as well as some of the funnier, as she also complains about the baby in said letters. There’s a detachment that Jenna has that stems from her abusive husband, and it’s done just beautifully by Ms. Russell. Watching her retreat in scenes with her husband makes you just feel for her.

Sisto has the unenviable role of Earl, Jenna’s husband, and there isn’t an adjective strong enough to describe what a bastard Earl is. Sisto is downright scary as Earl, and not in that extremely violent, raging sort of way. Earl is abusive in that way that only comes casually, when a man thinks everything he’s saying is just honest to god truth, and it’s just how the world is. Saying terrible things in a warm, matter of fact way put shudders down my spine.

Even with the few laughs Earl does gets when his ignorance is revealed, he’s still a scary example of abuse. Sisto gets my applause not only for taking the role, but playing such a frightening man so well.

Most of the comic relief definitely comes from Cheryl Hines and Shelly herself, two of the funniest characters in the movie. Almost always scene stealers, these two are by far the funniest part of the film, for simple, innocent commentary that ends up being utterly hilarious. And also, look for an appearance by the ever funny Eddie Jemison, wearing a Southern accent like it was made for him, spouting poetry of dubious (but hilarious) quality.

Nathan Fillion is just sweetly adorable, and I’m not saying that just because I have a crush on him. His character isn’t too developed, as I had a few questions about him that I would have liked answered, but his Dr. Pomatter is a wonderfully loving compliment to Jeremy Sisto’s terrible Earl. His awkwardness in the beginning is a little stilted, but there’s a moment where he switches from awkward to determined, and trust me, it’s a scene worth paying attention to. There are moments when he’s channeling his soap opera days, and it’s gut wrenchingly funny.

I like that this film isn’t the fairy tale love story that abounds in so many places. It shows that there are different kinds of love, that it occurs in different places and in different ways. It’s not this stock thing that will be the same for everyone. Waitress also passes a message of taking control of life, not letting life control you. A touching, and truly memorable film, and a worthy legacy for an excellent writer and director.


Erin Frost

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