Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Not recommending as much as sharing


DW and I watched a movie tonight over a dinner of roasted vegetables over couscous with a spicy chicken sausage on the side. The film is “Waitress “, written and directed by Adrienne Shelley (2007). Shelley may best be remembered for her roles in Hal Hartley’s films. Tragically, she was murdered shortly before “Waitress” was accepted for the Sundance Film Festival.

The film’s pace was very reminiscent of Hartley’s films, with the dialogue having a weird precedence to drive the plot and character development. It’s rather hard to explain, but if you’ve seen a Hartley film, you might know what I mean. One notices the script.

Here’s an example where the strategy works: Keri Russell (from the television show, “Felicity”) is the main character and a waitress (Jenna) working in a podunk diner. She’s not a very happy person, yet she’s starting to get inklings of what happiness might be. Still unsure, she turns to the cook (Cal), perhaps an equally miserable and certainly cantankerous individual and asks, “Are you happy? I mean, would you call yourself a happy man? ” He responds, “Well, if you’re askin’ me a serious question, I’ll tell ya. Happy enough. Don’t expect much. Don’t give much. Don’t get much. I generally enjoy what comes up. That’s my truth, summed for your feminine judgment.”

When I heard this exchange, I asked DW to rewind so I could write it down. I thought it might be the best dialogue of the film. Now that I read it over, I am curious about more than Cal’s definition of happiness, or even what constitutes his degree of happiness. Upon closer examination, two words stand out from the script. Jenna asks if Cal is a happy man, not a happy person. He responds and then submits it to her feminine judgment.

Upon seeing the opening sequence, DW said that it looked as if we would be watching a chick flick. In a way, it was. Yet, it was more a feminist’s film, for certain; and I don’t mean to imply that it was an angry feminist film. There is a tension between the genders that drives the plot of the film, and the story is told from woman’s perspective. It is a film that a liberal arts major could dissect for a sociology assignment, and that’s not such a bad thing.

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