29 January 2009

DVD: "Waitress" - Widescreen Edition

Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelly
Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith
DVD Release Date: 27 November 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Sexual Content, Language and Thematic Elements)
List Price: $19.98

The Film
Waitress was marketed as an independent comedy, but the truth is it's far more a drama.  For that matter, it's at least as much a suspense film as it is a comedy.  Keri Russell's Jenna has a talent for creating pie recipes (dinner and dessert varieties), which she employs daily at her job at Joe's Pie Place (owned by Andy Griffith's Joe).  She has the idea in her head that she will enter and win an out of town pie contest and use the $25,000 to leave her controlling husband (Jeremy Sisto's Earl).  Oh, and when we first meet her, she's just found out she's pregnant, courtesy of Earl getting her drunk prior to the events depicted in the film.  If that's not enough, she finds herself having an affair with...her gynecologist.

The cast is excellent.  Keri Russell is quite convincing as a small town woman in over her head in her own life, and Andy Griffith is quite entertaining as dirty old bastard Joe.  (It's still unsettling to hear him say certain things, as he does in this role.)  Far and away, though, the most eye-opening performance in the entire film is that of Jeremy Sisto.  Earl is a far cry from his new Law & Order role, and it goes beyond the scruff and redneck accent.  There is an animalistic intensity that he exudes in every scene that makes his Earl loom over every scene, whether or not he's even in it.  Truly, Sisto should have at least been nominated for something for this film.  There are suspense and horror films whose villains haven't been as menacing or as capable of sustaining such fear, and Sisto's twisted, dark Earl is the entire reason everything else in the film even matters.

It should also be noted that one of Jenna's coworkers, Dawn, is played by director Adrienne Shelly.  Tragically, Shelly was murdered before the release of this film, and this permeates the DVD bonus features.  As a human being, her murder's effects can only be understood by those she left behind; as an artist, we can all recognize by this film's (admittedly predictable) ending that we have all been cheated of whatever work may have followed this fine film.  There is a commentary track featuring producer Michael Roiff and lead actress Russell.  On the list of heartbreaking missing features, a director's commentary for Waitress must surely be at the top.

The Recommendation
This was another Redbox rental, and I would highly advise it go to the top of your Netflix rental queue.  If you can find it cheap enough, it would even be worthy of a blind buy (say, in the $5 section at Walmart).  This is a compelling little film, and while it may not be a Favorite Movies of All Time entry, it's surely among the runner-ups.

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