I have a confession. I love Nathan Fillion. The first time I saw him as Captain Malcolm Reynolds on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, I fell head over heels. My love for Fillion even made me watch Slither, despite my overwhelming hatred of gross-out horror movies (the laughs completely outweighed the gross-outs, and trust me, there were a lot of gross-outs).
So I was looking forward to seeing Adrienne Shelly’s Waitress if only for my beloved Nathan. I never watched Felicity, star Keri Russell’s most famous project; it kind of seems like a crime for a woman in her mid-late twenties to have never watched that show, doesn’t it? I went into this film with a pretty open mind, expecting only another good performance from Fillion.
I was impressed. It’s not the jump-up-in-my-seat kind of impressed; more like a quiet, contemplative kind of feeling. It’s pretty much impossible not to empathize with Russell’s Jenna, an abused waitress saddled with a pathetic husband and an unwanted pregnancy. Jenna’s joy in life is baking; she creates the most amazing, creatively-named pies as a form of escapism. Her other form of escapism is the affair she begins with her slightly-neurotic OB-GYN, Dr. Pomatter (played to the stammering, charming T by Fillion). The supporting actors are all subtle and believable, from Jeremy Sisto as Jenna’s asshole of a husband to director Shelly as the love-starved Dawn.
Despite Jenna’s sweet pies, the film is suffused with bittersweetness. Jenna, Dr. Pomatter, Jenna’s fellow waitresses, and Old Joe, the cranky owner of the diner, are all likable, but there’s so much that’s screwed up in each of their lives, from affairs to unwanted babies to broken down bodies. I went through the entire film dreading the next moment, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Waitress sits in your chest as an ache. It’s a tearjerker without being cloying or contrived, and I couldn’t help thinking while watching about Shelly’s untimely death. My only complaint is the neatness of the ending; it’s meant to be empowering for women, but it’s a little too transparent for my tastes. I like to feel empowered while watching a film without metaphorical flashing neon lights.
The Discriminating Fangirl’s Grade: B+