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20th Century Fox presents
"Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie... Lumpy oatmeal with fruitcake mashed in. Flambé of course."
DVD ReviewAdrienne Shelly is well known for her work in praised indie films of the early ‘90s like Trust and The Unbelievable Truth. In recent years, she started to make her name as a writer and director while continuing to act periodically. While pregnant with her daughter Sophie, Shelly crafted a script about a young pregnant waitress who’s not thrilled with her situation. The eventual result was Waitress—a heart-warming gem that offers a fairly realistic look at the trials of a reluctantly pregnant woman. Tragically, Shelly did not live to see her film’s success after being murdered in late 2006. Her talents for character and whimsy are highly evident in this picture, and it’s heartbreaking that it is her final creation.
Keri Russell (Felicity) stars as Jenna—the pregnant central character who struggles to survive living with her creepy, controlling husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto). Her main solace comes from baking wonderful, original pies that wow the patrons at Joe’s Pie Diner. Learning the craft from her late mother, she enters a more peaceful world while creating uniquely titled pies that match her current state of mind. Facing an extremely difficult life if she leaves her husband, Jenna sees little hope for the future. But all is not lost. A refreshing presence arrives in the nervous form of Dr. Pomatter (Nathon Fillion), whose kind demeanor contrasts drastically from Earl. Can this married guy actually save her from a depressing fate? Support at work comes from Jenna’s waitress pals Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly), each of whom is dealing with her own odd situation. There’s also the grumpy, yet welcome presence of diner owner Old Joe (Andy Griffith), who irritates everyone but Jenna. Their bond feels surprisingly real, and his support could make the difference.
In the wrong hands, this story could have easily entered unbearably cheesy territory. Thankfully, Shelly deftly balances the realistic side with enjoyable scenes that highlight the humor within daily life. The gags never shift into groan-inducing moments and instead make the characters highly engaging. A particular highlight is the happy sequence at the film’s middle—backed by Cake’s Short Skirt/Long Jacket—where Jenna glides through her daily routine with an everlasting smile. This picture is filled with exciting interludes that mesh nicely with the tougher conflicts. The key factor in every segment is Russell, who has never looked more at home than within Jenna’s shoes. If we didn’t identify with her waitress, the movie would quickly collapsed. Instead, Russell’s impressive acting makes us hope for Jenna’s success in the future.
Waitress earned critical accolades, was a sleeper box-office hit, and I expect it to earn even more followers on home video. The cast is likable across the board, with Fillion and Shelly performing especially well in supporting roles. Shifting considerably from his definitive role as Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly, Fillion makes Dr. Pomatter a refreshing doofus. Shelly’s Dawn attempts to find the right guy and ventures in unexpected directions, but it never feels like a gimmick. This character again reveals why Shelly is such a charming actress. I was also surprised by Andy Griffith, whose casting as the crotchety old guy felt like a stunt. Instead, he brings grace to the key small role and generates a memorable figure. Like a classic pie, Waitress combines all the right ingredients to deliver one of the year’s best films.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Waitress uses an impressive 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that presents everything with shining colors. The distinctive pies look delicious, and the entire picture remains stunning throughout the film. There is a minimal amount of grain and defects, which leads to a top-notch presentation.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: One of the main reasons that this movie works is the subtle music, which creates a slight fairy-tale quality to each event. Andrew Hollander’s (Gray Matters) engaging score moves nicely through the 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound field and enhances the movie. The snappy dialogue is also easily understandable.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Blind Dating
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer Michael Roiff and Actor Keri Russell
I was definitely ready to eat some dessert after viewing The Pies Have It!, which shows the cast members on-set describing their favorite pies. Three of the most prominent actors (Russell, Cheryl Hines, and Nathan Fillion) are spotlighted in the Fox Movie Channel Presents in Character with interviews, which each last about three minutes. They’re mostly promotional, but do offer a few more details about each star. There’s also a quick message from Keri Russell about the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, which aims to help women achieve their filmmaking dreams. More information can be found at www.adirenneshellyfoundation.org. This release’s only remaining feature is a warm commentary from Russell and Producer Michael Roiff. Both participants are obviously very proud of the film, which makes the discussion an easy listen. They supply interesting tidbits from the production and have glowing things to say about everyone involved.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsWaitress could be dismissed by cynics as a basic story catering to the masses, but I strongly recommend that you ignore this false assumption. Adrienne Shelly, Keri Russell, and a highly likable cast produce great entertainment that should be at the forefront of your DVD radar.
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