Keri Russell ... Jenna
Nathan Fillion ... Dr. Pomatter
Cheryl Hines ... Becky
Jeremy Sisto ... Earl
Andy Griffith ... Old Joe
Adrienne Shelly ... Dawn
Eddie Jemison ... Ogie
Lew Temple ... Cal
Darby Stanchfield ... Francine Pomatter
Throughout the past year, it seemed like every weekend from the beginning of May until the beginning of September was nothing but wall to wall EVENT movie releases. A few of them I had no real intention of seeing in the theatres, but did anyways for a variety of reasons. However, in the midst of the glut and glitter of 2007, there were a couple small films that I missed out on seeing for more various reasons. Once was one of them, though I didn't feel too bad about missing that because it apparently never played in Calgary. Thankfully I rectified missing it last week. The other one that I was kind of kicking myself for missing was the late Adrienne Shelly's final movie, Waitress.
Now if at first you'd have seen the movie poster, heard it starred Keri Russel as the titular waitress, and immediately judged it based on the title alone, well you'd think I'd gone a bit fruity or something at wanting to see the movie. You wouldn't be too far wrong on that one, since the main reason I wanted to see the movie was that Nathan Fillion was the co-star of the picture. I'm not saying I have a man crush on him or anything, but he's usually the highlight of a lot of dreck (but not in that Christopher "I'll act in anything" Walken way). Fillion usually finds a way to elevate the project he's in simply by bringing his amazing energy to work everyday. He's pretty much the only reason I'll actually eventually watch Slither. No matter how amazing he is though, I'll never sit through an episode of Desperate Housewives just to see what he's up to now. You know, reading all that over really makes it seem like I do have a man crush on him. Fuck. Oh well, let's talk about the movie.
Jenna (Russell) is a small town America waitress at a charming little pie restaurant, something I had no idea actually existed. She truly lives the stereotypical small town girl life, getting married to a dreadful lout of a husband by the now-stereotypical name of Earl (Sisto). He's not physically or verbally abusive or anything, but the way Earl carries himself around Jenna, there always seems to be a tenuous grip on reality holding onto him that could let go at any time.
Somehow Jenna continues to stay in a horrible relationship, content to go to work and make amazing pies and hang out with her co-waitress friends, Becky (Hines) and Dawn (Shelly) and just exist. That all changes when a pregnancy test reveals DUN DUN DUN that Jenna is knocked up (from that night six weeks ago where Earl got her drunk) and she has the tragic upbringing of a child in a house with Earl to look forward to for the rest of her life. However, there's not just a new baby in her life, but a new doctor as well. Handsome and dashing, Dr. McDrea... I mean Dr. Pomatter (Fillion) has just started at the local practice, and one of his first patients is Jenna, and you can probably see where things may lead from there.
The strength of the movie isn't in the story, which at some points seems to border on being a parody of small town life. No, the amazingness of the movie is spread out amongst much of the cast, who breathe life into what may have been two-dimensional characters in the screenplay. I was going to sit down and sing the praises of the leads, but then I remembered the great performance that Andy Griffith brought to the film. In what will surely be one of the final roles of his lengthy career, Griffith shows that there's still some decent acting chops in his old bones. And then I remembered how unspoken the desperate rage was that Jeremy Sisto put into Earl. When he's around Jenna, you almost cower in fear at what he always seems to be contemplating, you're always cringing, fearful that this may be the time he just lashes out.
Now there's Fillion and Russell left, and what amazing chemistry and genuine passion they seem to overpower every scene with. The line deliveries of Fillion actually had me laughing out loud at points, which is something I may have mentioned in the past that I don't often do watching movies by myself. Keri Russell brings a little hillbilly-tinged Felicity to her part, and it's truly a revelation that will sadly most likely not be recognised come awards season. It's easily the best female performance I've seen all year, and it's not in a generally boring period Oscar-wooing type movie. Just a small picture that the entire cast and crew believed in completely, and it shows on the screen. Sadly, we'll never know if Adrienne Shelly would ever be able to write or direct another wonderful movie such as Waitress.
4.5 / 5
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