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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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