In Defense of the Genre: Romantic Comedy Series ft. Waitress

Waitress (2007): My mother suggested this film to me when I was in high school and I didn’t know how appropriate that was at the time. This film holds a special place in my heart as one of the most empowering, hopeful, and feminist movies I have ever seen. Without taking a political stance or spoiling the movie, I would just like to say that the mother-child relationships found within the story are so refreshing in the midst of some feminist New Wave criticisms that posit an unborn child can be an oppressor or a parasite. As a woman and a feminist, I have always felt that in the general sense female reproduction is empowering rather than emanent. This film celebrates the magic of living and creating life.


Speaking of life, I would like to discuss the life of  the auteur feminin of this film, Adrienne Shelly. She acted in many independent films and television shows in the early nineties before directing and writing her first film, Sudden Manhattan (1997). From that point, Shelly’s all-encompassing cinematic talent became more than evident. She wrote, directed, and co-starred in Waitress in 2007. The film was nominated for several prestigious awards such as the Humanitas Prize and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. Beyond all of this success, Shelly was happily married to Andrew Ostroy and together they had a beloved daughter, Sophie. Tragically, in 2006, Shelly was found dead in her New York City apartment turned office. After a series of investigations and lawsuits, it was discovered that her death was the result of direct homicide (all of the information is available on her wikipedia page). Her family and fellow cast/production mates of Waitress were heartbroken by the loss of such an intelligent and radiant artist and person.


I feel that when discussing Waitress, it is extremely important to discuss Adrienne Shelly in order to demonstrate that this film is every bit as humane and optimistic as she was. The story details the life of waitress, Jenna (Kerri Russell), and her uncanny talent to make ridiculously innovative pies at the southern diner in which she is employed. When she and her scuzzball husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), are expecting a baby, she finds herself resenting everything about her life. Jenna will do whatever she can to escape her highly oppressive spouse and thankless job and that includes a steamy affair, a pie contest, and a series of strongly worded letters to her unborn baby. However, with the help of her adorable and encouraging co-workers (Adrienne Shelly and Cheryl Hines) and the kinship of an unlikely friend, Jenna finds that she has so much more potential than even she knew.

Watch the trailer here. 

My synopsis of this film is extremely constricted because the entirety of the story is filled with surprises, tears, and moments of awe that I would be remiss to give away. I would just like to emphasize that Jenna stands as a feminist icon. She is not a CEO and she did not pen her own rendition of The Second Sex, but she baked, and loved, and discovered what it means to be a mother. All of these are traits now condemned as stereotypical and retrogressive in women, but why? The film celebrates women for all that they are capable of creating and overcoming, and it calls all women to action by demanding that if they are unhappy, they should do something about it. Shelly is a truly remarkable woman who penned another truly remarkable female character. Each of them are artists, mothers, and human beings and they each stand as incredible humanistic idols for men and women alike. – Kailey



Adrienne Shelly
1966 – 2006

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