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Variety's Women's Impact Report: Adrienne Shelley

Variety's Women's Impact Report: Adrienne Shelley

Every year, Variety issues their Women's Impact Report in which they highlight women in the entertainment industry that they think deserve some praise. From industry executives (like United Artists bigwig Paula Wagner) to household names (like Angelina Jolie), the list spotlights some strong, smart, intriguing ladies. For the next few Wednesdays I'll focus on some of the women who I find particularly noteworthy as well.

Listed under the "Filmmakers" category, Adrienne Shelly was the driving force behind the funny, heartwarming romantic comedy Waitress, which I loved. Not only writing and directing it, Shelly also played the role of Dawn, who ultimately finds love with an unusual man. As Dawn, Shelly's adorable, goofy and endearing, sensitive, cute and honest. On-screen she's completely lovable. Off-screen, she created one of my favorite films of 2007 so far. To find out why, and more about Adrienne Shelly,


The movie achieves a delicate balance of dark humor and real pathos. Keri Russell's character is a very realistic kind of gal, and I daresay Shelley got a performance out of Russell that I haven't seen since... maybe ever. I'm not a big fan of the "romantic comedy" genre the way it's come to be understood: empty, pointless stuff like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. And apparently, as a woman, those movies are supposed to be geared toward my sensibilities, somehow. Waitress gave me an earnest newfound hope in the genre as a whole. I identified with the female characters — and I liked them.

This all makes Shelly's story much sadder: late last year, months before Waitress was supposed to be released, Shelly was brutally murdered in her New York apartment. Not only did she not get to see her movie receive stellar reviews and capture the affections of many a moviegoer, but now the world will not get to see anymore Shelley-helmed projects.

Variety's profile of Shelly states:

She wrote Waitress while pregnant with her daughter. The finished product — a frank, whimsical look at an unwanted pregnancy and the joy of cooking — revealed a unique style and a rueful humor that few filmmakers could pull off.

"From her perspective, the work would approach her," says [Shelly's husband Andy] Ostroy. "Nothing could happen for days and then she'd work for 12 hours straight and bang out 30 pages. She was rational enough to know creativity comes in waves."

I'm hoping Waitress will inspire more female filmmakers like Shelley to go out there and influence movie genres, and influence Hollywood. In fact, they now might have some help: In his wife's honor, Ostroy started The Adrienne Shelley Foundation to assist female filmmakers.

Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight

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beingtazim beingtazim 8 years
oh how sad. :( thanks for this tribute of sorts, Buzz.
ebgirl ebgirl 8 years
I loved that film. I didn't know the little girl in the scene at the end was her real daughter. Now I'll have to go see it again. So tragic...
divinedebris divinedebris 8 years
I remember seeing in a few movies, she was really cute. It's such a tragic story.
katlovesclothes katlovesclothes 8 years
So Tragic. I liked the movie and am sad for her family and child. It's inspiring that they have taken something so terrible and created a foundation that will help so many for years to come, honoring her hard work!
nikkih nikkih 8 years
Such a bittersweet story. The movie is such a gem and Ms. Shelly was just coming into her own as a director.
yiddidea yiddidea 8 years
I didn't know about the Foundation so thanks for posting this! Waitress is definitely one of my fave films this year.
fireyelectra fireyelectra 8 years
The last scene of Waitress is totally heartbreaking because the little girl, Lulu, is played by Shelley's daughter. So it just hurts to know that when she's waving to the camera, she's waving at her mom.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
What a tragic story and what a wonderful way to honor her through gifts to the Foundation. Thanks, Buzz.
mwmsjuly19 mwmsjuly19 8 years
Her death was/is so sad. It's just a heartbreaking story.
tchan01 tchan01 8 years
Thanks for this post. This was definitely one of my favs this year as well and her talent will hopefully live on through this foundation.
hvnly34 hvnly34 8 years
That was such a tragic story...
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