Waitress, Adrienne Shelly (2007)

We all know it, but sometimes we forget: critics lie. This movie is not tart or bittersweet. It is a vat of treacle. But I guess there was really no way of knowing that in advance. You know how it goes. You read the reviews of a new “indie” movie and they praise the quirky characters and poignant discoveries, and off you trot to the theater, because sometimes movies of this ilk turn out to be genuinely, amazingly beautiful and affecting (fer example You Can Count on Me, or You and Me and Everyone We Know, or the surprisingly and delightfully weird Nurse Betty. But far, far, far, far and, yes, far more often, they’re half-assed swamps of saccharine and incoherence like this one, filled with forced charm and, in this case at least, really strange mixed messages. Waitress courageously dares to suggest that a young woman doesn’t need to have a man in order to be fulfilled as a human being–ooh! how controversial!–but on the other hand strongly suggests that having a baby pretty much guarantees that a young woman will be fulfilled as a human being.

Someone should come up with a index of warning signs for movies like these. If it’s set in the deep South or in a suburban housing development, that’s one danger point. If any of its scenes are shot in a diner, that’s two points. If anyone in the movie drives a self-consciously nerdy car, wears cat-eye glasses, works as a clerk in a record or bookstore but lives in a great apartment: point, point, point. You get the point.

UPDATE. A week later I’m still thinking about how annoying this movie was. The woman is literally beaten by her awful husband in front of all her friends and co-workers, and everyone just dismisses it by ruefully saying that she has had the bad fortune of marrying a mean husband. Then she gets pregnant by this man, makes vociferously clear that she doesn’t want his baby, but never does she or any of her friends or co-workers entertain the idea of abortion for more than a second. Also, it occurred to me out of the blue, this movie is supposedly set somewhere in the rural South, but there are no black people. I mean, not only are there no black characters, I can’t even remember seeing a black person on the screen.

An extraordinarily strange and evil movie.

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