"Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness."
WAITRESS is a quietly feminist film, directed skillfully by Adrienne Shelly. As a bonus, there's a new flavor of pie in nearly every frame!
This film balances the depressing undertones of poverty and patriarchy with the uplifting and humorous camaraderie of southern women. I admire that Shelly avoided the tropes of a woman being a mystery to herself, or women being to blame for all their own problems. This film centers on a woman's journey to claim her own happiness, and it delivers a triumphant and satisfying conclusion.
FEMINIST MOMENT #1:
Jenna (Keri Russell) and her co-workers Dawn and Becky chat as Jenna takes a pregnancy test before work at Joe's Pie Diner.
And just like that, within two minutes of the opening credits, WAITRESS passed the Bechdel Test.
MORE WOMEN DIRECTORS, PLEASE.
FEMINIST MOMENT #2:
Jenna's husband Earl is a hilarious and revolting personification of the Mediocre White Male. Each day, Jenna creates a new pie, and it is the only time when her intelligence and autonomy are respected.
When Earl arrives to drive her home after work, Dawn says, "I don't care if she is a pie genius, I wouldn't trade places with her." It's clear that these women have one another's backs, with the cheerful and blunt camaraderie characteristic of the South. On the drive home, Earl literally takes Jenna's wages out of her hands. Then he says, "I think I might rather have you be at home making me pies all day long."
Later on in bed, Jenna doesn't want to have sex. So, Earl lays next to her and says, "please" over and over again in the drone-like tone of a disgruntled preteen.
FEMINIST MOMENT #3:
Jenna and Becky tell Dawn how beautiful she is, as she prepares for a date that evening. Women loving each other, not tearing each other down.
FEMINIST MOMENT #4:
Jenna is quickly attracted to her kind and awkward doctor, Jim (Nathan Fillion). As she discusses her unwanted pregnancy with him, the word "abortion" is never spoken: "JENNA: Thanks, but I don't want this baby. DOCTOR: Oh, well, we don't perform... uh..."
Despite this, the doctor accepts Jenna's feelings without hesitation and they have a witty exchange about it. Then, in a glorious example of feminist consent, their first kiss is initiated by Jenna.
FEMINIST MOMENT #5:
Shelly directed the birth scene beautifully. The camera focuses on Jenna, laying in the hospital bed with her new baby, and both Earl and Jim ("bad guy" and "good guy") are both blurry in the foreground. With this composition, Shelly tells the audience that this scene is really about Jenna. This moment is hers, and hers alone.
One of the barriers for female directors is a perceived scarcity of talent pool and experience. Many of those surveyed couldn’t name a female director. #52FilmsByWomen is a fun way to bring attention to the many talented female filmmakers around the world, and a great way to spark a creative and interactive conversation!
> Join me in watching #52FilmsByWomen here.
> Check out my #52FilmsByWomen list here.
> Catch my Radicle Conversation on the power of failure with game designer Alfie Padilla here.
This year, I am watching 52 films directed by women. Join me!
Check back soon for reviews.
1. BORN IN FLAMES, 1983, dir. Lizzie Borden
In New York City of the future, a group of women decide to organize and mobilize, to take the revolution farther than any man – and many women – ever imagined in their lifetimes.
2. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE. 2007, dir. Julie Taymor
Across The Universe is a fictional love story set in the 1960s amid the turbulent years of anti-war protest, the struggle for free speech and civil rights, mind exploration and rock and roll.
3. DANCE, GIRL, DANCE. 1940, dir. Dorothy Arzner
Judy O’Brien is an aspiring ballerina in a dance troupe. Also in the company is Bubbles, a brash mantrap who leaves the struggling troupe for a career in burlesque. When the company disbands, Bubbles gives Judy a thankless job as her stooge.
4. THE GLEANERS & I. 2000, dir. Agnes Varda
Varda’s rumination on this art of “living off the leftovers of others” finds inspiration in both past and present, rural and urban, the political and the highly personal. Camera in hand, Varda interviews those for whom gleaning is a way of life, or an encompassing philosophy.
5. WAITRESS. 2007, dir. Adrienne Shelly
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness. (MY REVIEW)
6. TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. 1935, dir. Leni Riefenstahl
Triumph of the Will is a filmed record of the 1934 Nazi Party Convention, in Nuremberg. Possibly the most powerful propaganda film ever made, Triumph of the Will is also, in retrospect, one of the most horrifying.
7. EVE'S BAYOU. 1997, dir. Kasi Lemmons
The story is set in 1962 Louisiana. The big Batiste family is headed by a charming doctor with a dark secret.
8. WHITE MATERIAL. 2009, dir. Claire Denis
Maria is an entitled white woman living in Africa, unwilling to give up her family’s crumbling coffee plantation despite the civil war closing in on her.White Material is a gripping evocation of the death throes of European colonialism and a fascinating look at a woman lost in her own mind.
9. TAKE THIS WALTZ. 2011, dir. Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley makes a welcome return to directing with her first feature since Away from Her. Seth Rogen, Sarah Silverman and Michelle Williams star in this bittersweet story about a married woman struggling to choose between her husband and a man she’s just met.
10. SWEETIE. 1989, dir. Jane Campion
Though she went on to create a string of brilliant films, Jane Campion will always be remembered for her stunning debut feature, Sweetie, which focuses on the hazardous relationship between the buttoned-down, superstitious Kay and her rampaging, devil-may-care sister, “Sweetie.”
11. DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST. 1991, dir. Julie Dash
Set in the early 1900s, the Pazants family prepares to migrate from their Sea Island home to the mainland, leaving their land and legacy behind.Daughters of the Dust was the first dramatic feature film to explore the traditions of the Gullah.
12. MORVEN CALLAR. 2002. dir. Lynne Ramsay
Scottish supermarket shelf-filler Morvern Callar (Samantha Morton) uses her boyfriend’s inheritance after his suicide to escape from her boring life. Emotionally intense road movie by the director of the prize-winning Ratcatcher.
13. ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW. 2005, dir. Miranda July
Richard, a newly single salesman and father of two boys, is prepared for amazing things to happen. But when the captivating Christine enters his life, he panics. Christine vacillates between heartbreak and faith as she weaves together reality and the fantastical in her art and life.
14. WADJDA. 2012, dir. Haifaa al-Mansour
Hailed as the first film shot in contemporary Saudi Arabia (from the first female Saudi filmmaker),Wadjda tells the story of a young girl in a conservative town who dreams of having a bicycle, which is forbidden for girls.
15. ORLANDO. 1992, dir. Sally Potter
Sexy, witty and provocative, Potter’s adaptation ofOrlando turned Virginia Woolf’s most spirited novel, called ‘the longest love letter in English literature’, into a reinvention of heritage cinema that dazzled audiences and critics from the Venice Film Festival to Rolling Stone.
16. DAISIES. 1966, dir. Vera Chytilova
Daisies is an aesthetically and politically adventurous film that’s widely considered one of the great works of feminist cinema.
17. CLEO FROM 5 TO 7. 1962, dir. Agnes Varda
A chronicle of the minutes of one woman’s life, Cléo from 5 to 7 is a spirited mix of vivid vérité and melodrama, featuring a score by Michel Legrand (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina.
18. THE PIANO. 1993, dir. Jane Campion
A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she’s soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.
19. INCH'ALLAH. 2012, dir. Anais Barbeau-Lavalette
Chloe is a young Canadian obstetrician working in a makeshift clinic within a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank where she treats pregnant women under the supervision of Michael, a French doctor
20. NOWHERE IN AFRICA. 2001, dir. Caroline Link
The Jewish Redlich family emigrate to Kenya in 1938. While his wife Jettel finds it hard adapting to her new life on an isolated farm, a far from romantic existence, little Regina falls in love with Africa.
21. VALENCIA. 2013, dir. Hilary Goldberg, Jill Soloway, Cheryl Dunye, and others
Valencia is a collaboration between a national community of queer filmmakers to adapt the underground classic memoir into a kaleidoscopic vision of San Francisco’s Mission District in the early 90s during the rise of a punk lesbian diaspora told through the experiences of Michelle.
22. HE HATED PIGEONS. 2015, dir. Ingrid Veninger
Elias goes on a road trip through dazzling Patagonia – a journey he had wanted to make with his partner, who is dead. On the way, he relives their last moments and has chastening encounters that lead him to a new starting point in life.
23. ON THE EDGE. 2011, dir. Leila Kilani
The “board” of the title is multifold: springboard, diving board or pirate plank. This is the story of an imperiled “brotherhood,” the story of a foursome. The story of 4 girls on the run, made of love, choices, shattered destinies.
24. FRANCINE. 2012, dir. Melanie Shatzy
After serving time in prison, Francine settles down in small-town North America. Through a series of temporary jobs, she tries to regain a foothold in society. However, this security proves just as elusive as the connections she tries to forge with people in the town.
25. DEMAIN. 2015, dir. Melanie Laurent
Climate is changing. Instead of showing all the worst that can happen, this documentary focuses on the people suggesting solutions and their actions.
26. 17 GIRLS. 2011, dir. Delphine & Muriel Coulin
17 teenage girls take together an unexpected decision that will change their peaceful little lives and leave them misunderstood by the boys and adults around them: they decide to get pregnant all at the same time. This is based on a true story that occurred in 2008.
27. EYES OF A THIEF. 2014, dir. Najwa Najjar
Set in Palestine, a father with a dangerous secret searches for his daughter.
28. THE 33. 2015, dir. Patricia Riggen
When a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days. The film is based on the real events of 2010 mining disaster in the San José Mine in Chile.
29. TUNISIAN SPRING. 2014, dir. Raja Amari
Tunisia, a few weeks before Ben Ali’s fall. Three young men struggle to live and survive in an increasingly oppressing, unequal society paralyzed by decades of a corrupted and ludicrous dictatorship. Their itinerary crosses that of the Tunisian revolution which will change their destiny for good. None of them will come out of it the same.
30. WE ARE HALF OF IRAN'S POPULATION. 2009, dir. Rakhshan Beni-Etamad
Rakhshan Beni-Etamad’s We Are Half of Iran’s Population gives voice to Iranian women oppressed by draconian marriage laws, male-on-female violence, educational gender quotas and other hallmarks of second-class citizenship.
31. HOME. 2008, dir. Ursula Meier
A family’s peaceful existence is threatened when a busy highway is opened right next to their isolated property. As the sounds and fumes of the modern world begin to fill their home, each member of the family finds themselves pushed to dangerous extremes.
32. ADVANTAGEOUS. 2015, dir. Jennifer Phang
In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter Jules do all they can to hold on to their joy together, despite the instability surfacing in their world.
33. THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE. 2015, dir. Li Lu
Sylvia, a struggling artist in New York, is fired from her job and flees back to her Texas hometown for a friend’s wedding. At the pre-wedding party, she meets an enigmatic stranger, Esteban. On the eve of the big day, he dares her to join him on a road trip through the jewel cities of the Deep South.
34. VESSEL. 2014, dir. Diana Whitten
A sea captain navigates through loopholes in international law to provide abortions on the high seas.
35. TENDER FICTIONS. 2007, dir Barbara Hammer
Pioneer lesbian-feminist filmmaker, Barbara Hammer, constructs an autobiography before someone does it for her in this post-postmodern sequel to her award-winning documentary Nitrate Kisses.
36. REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG. 2014, dir. Nancy D. Kates
An intimate investigation into the life of one of the most influential and provocative thinkers of the 20th century. The documentary explores Sontag’s life through archival materials, accounts from friends, family, colleagues, and lovers, as well as her own words, as read by Patricia Clarkson.
37. DOUBLE HAPPINESS. 1994, dir. Mina Shum
Jade Li (Sandra Oh) is a feisty, 20-something Chinese Canadian, trying to achieve that happy medium between giving in to her parent’s wishes and fulfilling her own needs and desires – double happiness.
38. HABIBI RASAK KHARBAN. 2011, dir. Susan Youssef
Habibi is a dramatic feature that tells the story of a forbidden love in Gaza. The film is a modern re-telling of the famous ancient Sufi parable ‘Majnun Layla’.
39. ANGELA. 1995, dir. Rebecca Miller
In Rebecca Miller’s directorial debut, a ten-year-old girl named Angela and her six-year-old sister begin acting out rituals of religious purification in the hopes it will cure their mother’s mental illness.
40. EUROPA, EUROPA. 1990 dir. Agnieszka Holland
A boy in Nazi Germany, trying to conceal that he is Jewish, joins the Hitler Youth.
41. NORTH COUNTRY. 2005, dir. Niki Caro
A fictionalized account of the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States – Jenson vs. Eveleth Mines, where a woman who endured a range of abuse while working as a miner filed and won the landmark 1984 lawsuit.
42. WHERE DO WE GO NOW? 2011, dir. Nadine Labaki
A group of women living together in a community encircled by mines reject the religious divisions brought on by the war that set the standards for interpersonal relations on the national scene. Instead the Christian and Muslim women manage to happily coexist.
43. FROZEN RIVER. 2008, dir. Courtney Hunt
Frozen River takes place in the days before Christmas near a little-known border crossing on the Mohawk reservation between USA and Canada. Two women are drawn into the world of border smuggling across the frozen water of the St. Lawrence River.
44. TOUCHY FEELY. 2013, dir. Lynn Shelton
A massage therapist is unable to do her job when stricken with a mysterious and sudden aversion to bodily contact. Meanwhile, her uptight brother’s foundering dental practice receives new life when clients seek out his “healing touch.”
45. SALT OF THIS SEA. 2008, dir. Annemarie Jacir
Brooklyn-born Soraya (Suheir Hammad) discovers that her grandfather’s savings were frozen in a bank account in Jaffa when he was exiled in 1948. Direct, stubborn, and determined to reclaim what is hers, she fulfills her life-long dream of “returning” to Palestine
46. PAYBACK. 2012, dir. Jennifer Baichwal
Based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling book,Payback explores how debt is a central organizing principle in our lives – influencing relationships, societies, governing structures and the very fate of this planet.
47. THE NEW BLACK. 2013, dir. Yoruba Richen
The New Black is a refreshing and much-needed inside look at African American activists, citizens and clergy seeking to change attitudes towardLGBT rights within their communities and churches.
48. COMRADE KIM GOES FLYING. 2012, dir. Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner, Kim Gwang Hun
A young female coal miner struggles to realize her dream of becoming a circus acrobat in this winning, life-affirming fable that is the first Western-financed fiction feature ever made in North Korea.
49. KINGS OF PASTRY. 2009, dir. DA Pennebaker
Filmmakers D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus secured exclusive access to shoot this epic, never-before-filmed test of France’s finest artisan of the pastry.
50. NIGHT CATCHES US. 2010, dir. Tanya Hamilton
In 1978, complex political and emotional forces are set in motion when a young man returns to the race-torn Philadelphia neighborhood where he came of age during the Black Power movement.
51. LOVING VINCENT. 2016, dir. Dorota Kobiela
The world's first feature length painted animation, with every shot painted with oil paints on canvas, Loving Vincent is an investigation delving into the life and controversial death of Vincent Van Gogh.
52. LEAVEY. 2016. dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Leavey, member of a marine K9 bomb sniffing unit, was teamed with an aggressive combat dog named Rex. The two formed a powerful bond and ultimately served two tours in Iraq together, completing more than 100 missions that saved many lives. When Rex was scheduled instead to be euthanized, Leavey fought hard to save him.