Not long ago, the New York Times published an article wondering why Hollywood is "short on female power," stating that while there are some "female films" out there, it's still a "boys market." Agreeing with half the article (the "boys market" part), Cinematical writer Monika Bartyzel responded specifically to a female producer's comment bemoaning the fact that there aren't as many Devil Wears Pradas or The Break Ups thusly: "Maybe that's because women are more than flipping crazy ex-girlfriends or girls starving their already-thin frame to fit into the latest fashions? Could it be, perchance, that women want films that give them more credit?"
I wholeheartedly agree with Bartyzel's indignance, and, happily, I think movies like Waitress could be the kind of "female films" we need: films that are funny, creative and not too "floofy" (to borrow Bartyzel's term). To see what I mean,
In Waitress, Keri Russell plays Jenna, an inventive pie-baker and waitress in a small Southern town. She's married to the hissably villainous Earl (Jeremy Sisto) a possessive man whose controlling manner borders on insane. While Jenna dreams of owning her own pie shop, Earl takes her earnings and makes her parrot back terms of endearment. Her waitress friends, Dawn (writer/director Adrienne Shelly) and Becky (Cheryl Hines, who brings a lot of funny) have their own romantic issues, but once they learn about Jenna's unwanted pregnancy, Jenna takes the cake (er, pie) for having the most difficult life.
Enter Jenna's new cute OB-GYN Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) whose calm, sweet, slightly awkward demeanor is just what Jenna craves. They soon begin an affair that changes her life, though the bliss can't last long — the guilt of cheating starts to eat away at her, yet she's also still stuck in her miserable marriage with a baby she already resents. She finds unexpected encouragement and support from the pie shop's owner Joe (Andy Griffith), a curmudgeonly old man who reads the news and chuckles, "I like to live vicariously through the pain and suffering of others."
Throughout the film, Jenna thinks up new pies — both sweet and savory — that correspond with her feelings (Baby Waking Me Up in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life Pie, for example), and these pie ideas interject much-needed moments of comic relief. This tactic is comforting somehow, and we grow to hungrily anticipate her next pie idea, hoping each one is sweeter than the last.
The format of using the pie inventions to reflect what's going on in Jenna's life is clever and whimsical — much like the overall tone of Waitress, even in its darkest moments. I especially like the triumphant choral music that swirls around Jenna and Dr. Pomatter when they kiss, and the cartoon villain music Jenna hears every time she sees a certain unruly child in town. Thus, when the joyful yet absurdly tidy ending came around I was able to truly enjoy it because it certainly wasn't any more whimsical than anything else. The movie is very funny and more than a little touching, and while the gentlemen next to me in the theater seemed to love it, it will probably resound more with women. And I'm happy about that, because this is a great "female film."
Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight