Film Challenge 2: WAITRESS (2007)

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Ugh…this second installment of my movie-reviewing challenge is so delayed, it might as well be an airport during a blizzard. (What?) All bad jokes aside, here it is. Fresh from the oven and steaming hot. (Okay, I’m done now.)

As mentioned in a previous post I caught the Broadway musical adaptation of Waitress with my guy on my birthday. It was so lovely, fun, and heartfelt that I felt a need to take in the source material- and Barnes and Noble had the DVD for less than $8. You really can’t get a better deal than that. The movie is the final work of actress/screenwriter Adrienne Shelly, who was tragically the victim of a homicide not long before the film hit cinemas. Understandably, it was dedicated in her honor, as stated in the end credits.

And indeed, Shelly not only wrote the script, but she also directed it and played the supporting role of Dawn. The leading role is Jenna (Keri Russell), a small-town waitress and expert pie maker with unfulfilled dreams and an abusive husband. The movie (and stage show) is a testament to how Jenna uses her baking talents and finds the inner strength to “start fresh.”

I think my favorite performance in the film, apart from Russell’s, was Andy Griffith as elderly diner owner Joe. Joe is such a wonderful character, for many reasons; Griffith was able to pull off the character’s gruff exterior AND secret heart of gold with both realism and hilarity.

When I compare films to their Broadway adaptations, it’s often fun to see what changes were made from screen to stage. Waitress had a few. For one, Dawn and her boyfriend’s relationship was more thoroughly explored in the musical. Jenna’s jerk of a spouse, Earl, behaved a LOT worse in the movie. (Although, granted, his character did get booed during curtain call at the theatre.) The character of Becky (played by Cheryl Hines onscreen and Keala Settle onstage) also takes on two very unique interpretations from her actresses. But the most striking difference was that the film was VERY “Jenna-centric,” while the musical definitely felt like more of an ensemble piece. I’m not sure which take I preferred…perhaps each medium’s defining traits make both valid.

Overall, however, the soul of the story itself is present in both forms and hits equally hard. It’s a sassy tale, often filled with dry/sarcastic/awkward humor. But it’s also a tale of new beginnings, supportive friends, and believing in yourself. As some of you might know, these themes resonate with me very much. I highly recommend entering Jenna’s world whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up. And remember, when life gives you lemons…always make lemon meringue pie.

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