Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

My Response to Steve’s Review of Waitress

Posted by Gerald on August 1, 2007

Before reading this, you should read Steve’s review of the film.  I am really just reacting to what he said in his blog.  I decided to do it here because I wanted to write something rather longer than the average “comment.”

First, let me say that I agree with almost everything Steve has to say about Waitress.  In some places Steve mentioned a conversation we had about the film.  Although there was certainly no attack, I feel I need to rise in defense of my reaction to Waitress.

First, there really isn’t any “ire” in my reaction to the film.  I enjoyed it.  I thought it was sweet and funny and featured excellent performances by Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, and Jeremy Sisto (who I think deserves some extra kudos for his willingness to commit so fully to putting the “B” in Bastard.)  The movie had some fine moments, in particular when Keri Russell plays the moment when she decides to face Earl and the beautiful “moon pie” sequence.

I did not mean to say this movie had a “Hollywood” ending.  If it had such an ending, Jenna would have tried to sneak out on Earl, he would have caught her and would have proceeded to endanger her, at which point Dr. Pomatter would arrive, save her, and then he would have assumed the role of protector for her and the baby.  Curtain close and all is right with the Patriarchy.  It didn’t do that.  Instead, Jenna discovers the strength the audience could see beneath the surface (again, due to the fine performance) and she finds it through true heroism.  She doesn’t rise up to just save herself – she rises up to save her child.

The moment comes in a beautiful shot where we have Jenna’s POV looking at her daughter.  Then Earl leans into frame and reminds Jenna of the promise he had extorted from her to “always love him more.”  Then we go to a tight close-up of Keri Russell’s face as she ponders for a beat, and then tells Earl to get out.  It is a moment of almost orgasmic release as she finally finds her courage to confront him.  I give extra kudos here to the late Adrienne Shelley for not even allowing us to hear Earl’s outraged protestations.  The focus stays where it should – on Jenna.  I call this heroism, because what I saw was her realization in that moment that if she didn’t finally confront Earl, whom we have already seen is not just controlling but is physically abusive, she is going to doom her daughter to the life she has been so desperate to escape.  She saves her daughter and thus saves herself.  That is heroism.

What I did intend to say is that the last scene, where we see Jenna and the girls at the pie shop Jenna now owns, is very artificial.  I think that was intentional.  I said to Steve that the shop looked like a Soho artist’s vision of what a southern diner ought to look like (bright swirly colors and what looked like poetry on the walls.)  The women are dressed in what look like the costumes worn by clog dancers.  The whole thing has an air of unreality that reminded me of the last dream sequence in Raising Arizona.  I think this might have been deliberate.  How do you visually depict contentment and joy without indulging in melodrama?  It was a happy ending, but almost like the one in Blue Velvet (but without the dark irony.)  Everything seems too perfect.  But why not?  All endings are artificial to some extent, the self-conscious use of that is a sign of true artistry.  Again, I have no complaint.

I thought the movie was good, but I enjoyed it intellectually and not emotionally.  Unlike Steve, I was never moved to tears (and I get teary all the time while watching movies).  The movie felt to me like the pies it featured.  It was sweet and tasty with interesting undertones and the occasional surprise.  I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t a “meal” for me.  Why?  I don’t know.  I’m not assuming it was the movie.  Maybe it was the mood I was in.  Maybe it was the timing.  Maybe it is just a “strawberry” movie and I tend to react better to “chocolate” film.  All I can say is that I didn’t walk away from this film having felt something new or having learned something I didn’t already know.  It didn’t move me, but it did intrigue and entertain me.

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One Response to “My Response to Steve’s Review of Waitress”

  1. Steve said

    Touche!

    Let the blog wars begin!

    (On a completely unrelated note: I finished the first Harry Dresden. Good stuff. I breezed right past the end into the next one…)

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