I love it when a woman’s character’s first priority is herself, particularly in romantic comedies where we often see their love interests as their main source of happiness, their biggest obstacles and then their greatest awards. Waitress is so special and so effective because the lead character Jenna gets to do what many female characters don’t, and picks herself as her main source of happiness.
Directed by Adrienne Shelly the film tells the story about Jenna played charmingly by Keri Russell who’s trapped in a life that she only dreams of escaping, living with her temperamental husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto). The only joy she finds in her days are when she’s baking, concocting new ideas for her specialty pies that she serves at the diner she works at. Then, she learns she’s pregnant and finds herself in an affair with her physician, Doctor Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). She doesn’t want the baby but feels compelled to keep it, she doesn’t want to be with Earl but doesn’t know how to face the trouble it could cause leaving him, and she likes Pomatter and their chemistry is electric but she knows he’d just be a dream, rather than a real escape.
There are no easy fixes for the situation she’s found herself in and rather has to deal with them day by day until her daughter is born.
Shelly did some wonderful work behind the camera, telling a story with some familiar beats in a manner that seemed fresh and new, rather than relying on the stock directorial styles of typical romantic comedies, that rely more on the writing and banter than the eye catching moments. Aesthetically the visuals pop, with colors being painted warmly and with vibrancy, ironically enough taking on a similar hue of sorts to the pie themed television show Pushing Daisies.
What’s significant about this film is that Jenna is the main lead, with the two men in her life fitting into her narrative only when it’s required. She’s stubborn, she’s wanting, she’s intelligent and wise and she’s curious, something a life she’s leading could have easily squandered away. Jenna has friends and her life isn’t entirely empty but you can feel the longing emitting from her and it’s all solved, coincidentally, when she has her baby.
This easily could have annoyed me as I was so intrigued by seeing a character who was a potential mother to be that was completely void of excitement, it’s rare. However, what they had her do with her new found joy was what tipped convention on its head a bit. She looks at her newborn daughter and see’s that no longer is she simply going through the paces for herself, she now feels this obligation and commitment to take care of her little girl which means getting rid of both of the toxic relationships in her life that distracts from her true happiness. Jenna picks her happiness over the men in her life which subsequently includes her daughter who she loves instantaneously when she finally sees her face.
She gets her happy ending and we see a small time jump where Jenna and her daughter are wearing matching yellow dresses, in waitress gear and what’s now Jenna’s restaurant and it’s sweet and so surprisingly moving. It’s nice to see a real person get a win that isn’t anything extravagant but it’s something we can all hope to reach. She got inner peace and a place to call home.