"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.