Charming. Delightful. Funny. Heartwarming. Quirky. These words get thrown around so liberally in reviews of romantic comedies that they scarcely have meaning anymore. When films like "Fever Pitch" or "Because I Said So" have these words plastered all over their advertisements, it’s hard to use them to describe a truly charming, delightful, funny, heartwarming and quirky film like "Waitress."
Just know that "Waitress," is actually all these things, while still maintaining a level of soul that is lacking from so many cookie-cutter rom-coms. It's the story of Jenna (Keri Russell), a small-town waitress and expert pie creator who finds herself pregnant and subsequently starts having an affair with her OB-GYN (Nathan Fillion), Throughout the film, director Adrienne Shelly — who was murdered before the film hit it big at Sundance — has Jenna making pies in her head that perfectly encapsulate her feelings. There is something purely simple about how Shelly directs the film, allowing for conflicts and feelings to unfold honestly instead of forcing them into a comedic corner. Even Jenna’s absurdly disgusting husband, whom she is desperately trying to escape from by winning a pie contest behind his back, is handled with care instead of making him an offensive parody.
As Jenna’s life gets more and more complicated — and her pie creations get better and better — the film never shies away from the fact that it’s truly about affairs, divorce, unwanted pregnancy and even death. It’s this adherence to substance that allows "Waitress" to maintain its filmic soul while still being funny.
The cast, with a wonderfully delicious à la mode side of Andy Griffith, is perfect for the film. Russell charms her way into even the gruffest heart while deftly switching between serious, romantic and comedic scenes. Fillion is also spot-on as the most — and possibly only — charmingly awkward OB-GYN to play a major part in a film. Their relationship sparks with clever heartwarming humor and love, and the two actors play off each other wonderfully — in some scenes almost to a straight man/funny man extent.
Calling "Waitress" a romantic comedy really doesn’t sum it up, but clumping it with dramas would ignore its wonderful sense of humor. Putting it somewhere in between the genres doesn’t do the film's heart any justice, either.
It’s hard to place "Waitress" anywhere, but there is no doubt that it is charming, delightful, funny, heartwarming and quirky.
<1b>— Matthew Razak