Seen at the weekend, Part 2
WAITRESS (Adrienne Shelley, USA, 2007, 3)
On the 70s sitcom “Alice,” centered on three waitresses, the writers once contrived an episode that followed the plot of O. Henry’s short story “The Gift of the Magi.” WAITRESS is like a lengthy episode of “Alice,” with the writers taking the plot of “Madame Bovary,” and adding some surrealistic and impressionistic touches — particularly, fantasy of pie recipes. Which description probably makes WAITRESS sound better than it is, but I got rather annoyed imagining Linda Lavin as the sane one stuck in characterless
Yonville Hickville, Polly Holliday as the mouthy elder with the big hair, Beth Howland as the mousy quiet ditz, and Vic Tayback as the gruff paterfamilias (a much smaller role here than in “Alice”).
The more fundamental problem with this film is its tone, which annoyed me as a mix of garish exaggeration, tweeness and blue-state snobbery. Sample line: “you should try your pies in Europe or New Jersey and places like that.” Then there’s the character of “Vera’s” suitor … who … just belongs in a time capsule for overplayed idiot: “if I had a penny for everything I like about you. I’d have many pennies.” “Alice’s” husband is … a creature of the Women’s Studies Faculty Collective Writing Project. With a comedy, getting the tone wrong is fatal, because once the film gets cooking, the audience starts laughing (the woman sitting right behind me was yukking it up), and you’re going “why’s that funny” or “I don’t like the thought that this is funny or the people who think this is funny.” You get pushed into emotional rebellion against the movie.
Still, while I didn’t care for WAITRESS, comic tone is such a difficult matter and can turn on the smallest things, that I’d be more inclined to say about WAITRESS that “that’s just me, you might like it,” than I would for THE NAMESAKE.
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