Rightwing Film Geek

The bad “choice”

Peter Chattaway makes some good and valuable points about the role abortion plays (or rather, mostly doesn’t play) in a few recent films about pregnancies, reacting to this (subscriber-only) piece in Canada’s National Post. To speak only of WAITRESS (I have not seen KNOCKED UP, but probably will — I do not go to blockbusters on opening weekend), as Peter puts it:

I think there may be a little more “discussion” in the American films than Knight allows for — and what’s more, I think the films derive some of their power from the fact that they raise the issue and then point beyond it, claiming the thematic high ground as it were. …

[C]onsider Jenna’s declaration that “I respect this little baby’s right to thrive.” If one believes that preborn children have a “right to thrive”, then what is there to discuss? And consider the powerful, transformative effect that the birth of this child has on Jenna — giving her the courage to ditch her abusive husband and the strength to put certain other aspects of her life in order.

I didn’t buy this last plot point at all — it was far too sudden, far too quick and far too total, and thus came off as a twee affectation, i.e., exactly what I didn’t care for in WAITRESS overall. But it was still a very pleasant surprise in an Indiewood film (and one that has found a wide audience, no less¹) that the a-word was raised immediately, only to be dropped instantly and never seriously noted afterward.
¹ At the other end, I find it amusing that so many see ZOO as some great landmark in cultural degradation, when it hasn’t played on but five screens nationwide, to audiences that are already “degraded,” and grossed about the annual income of a middle-class household.

June 9, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

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.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment