Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on February 13th, 2008
Waitress is a film that could easily be passed-over as a tired, generic chick flick when perusing the DVD section of your favorite retailer. Those that take a chance on this underrated film, however, are in for a real treat. This is a film that has genuine heart, is honest and surprisingly funny.
Keri Russell stars as a down-on-her-luck waitress that makes pies in a small town diner. When she discovers that she is pregnant, she begins to want more than her lowlife husband is giving her. Unfortunately, she seems to find what she is looking for in her Doctor.
If this sounds familiar, you have probably seen Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, an excellent film in its own right. Alice, you may remember, was eventually turned into a TV show called Alice. While Waitress is obviously not the exact same film as Scorsese’s picture, it does hit a clever balance between that film and recent indie darling Garden State.
Keri Russell gives a breakthrough performance here, that should push her far past her roots as Felicity in the eyes of Hollywood casting agents in the future. Nathan Fillian and Andy Griffith co-star, and both do excellent work as well.
Obviously, this is not the kind of film that you pick up to admire the outstanding audio and video quality. It’s a good thing, too, since the picture here is marginal at best. The colors are heavy and dark throughout, and the images lack sharpness, which makes for a very muddled composition. Black levels are a little off, and the saturated colors trend heavily toward red. I hate to say it, but I would best describe the quality of this disc as “above average VHS”.
The audio is certainly much better than the video. Dialog is firmly planted to the center channel, making it clear and easy to discern. Surrounds are used sparingly, as they should be. Music provides the proper punch to the scenes where it is used, and the film is not afraid to be quiet when it should be quiet. Aside from some of the dialog being a bit too soft, this is a beautiful and nuanced audio track that is a perfect complement to this wonderful film.
There are surprising number of extras on this disc for a low budget film, kicked off by a Commentary by Producer Michael Roiff and Keri Russell. This is a fairly entertaining track that exceeded my expectations. So many commentary tracks are recorded out of obligation these days, that it is nice to hear one recorded by people who obviously love the project and enjoy discussing it.
This is How We Maid Waitress Pie is the typical electronic press kit, complete with cast interviews shot in front of the film’s poster. Hi! I’m Keri. I’ll be Your Waitress is a collection of interviews with and about Keri Russell. She is absolutely fantastic in this film, and I would have been perfectly pleased if she had been given an Academy Award nomination for her work.
The Pies Have It! is just what it sounds like; a brief discussion of the cast and crew’s favorite pie flavors, why pies were chosen as the main character’s talent and how those pies were created on screen.
Fox Movie Channel Presents In Character is actually three different segments taken from the television program. These segments feature the actors briefly discussing the characters they play in the film, and they were clearly created with the sole purpose of selling the film to the public. There is really no new information here, but it is fine to include it nonetheless.
The extras wrap up with two very special segments; A Message from Keri Russell About the Adrienne Shelly Foundation, and Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelly: A Memorial.
Andy Griffith, of all people, gives a speech in this film that describes how the flavors in a perfectly crafted pie develop and reveal themselves in perfect unison. Imagine my surprise when I was halfway through this film and it began to unfold in the same way. What started as a simple and goofy movie started to develop into a beautiful and amazing film that completely caught me off guard.
I hate to even mention this, but it would be careless of me not to tell the whole story. Writer/Director Adrienne Shelly, who also carries a supporting role as one of the waitresses in the diner, was tragically murdered before this film was released. It is one of life’s great ironies that she did what many consider to be her finest work, and then did not live to see the accolades pour in. Viewers owe it to Shelly’s memory to experience this wonderful little film for themselves.