Waitress: The Musical Review
Waitress: The Musical (2023) Film Review, a movie directed by Diane Paulus and Brett Sullivan, written by Jessie Nelson and Adrienne Shelly and starring Sara Bareilles, Drew Gehling, Caitlin Houlahan, Joe Tippett, Charity Dawson, Dakin Matthews, Christopher Fitzgerald, Eric Anderson, Anastacia McCleskey, Matt Deangelis, Molly Jobe and Stephanie Torns.
2007’s Waitress was an independent movie gem that starred Keri Russell. It earned just $19 million at the domestic box-office but won over the hearts of the movie-goers who turned out to see it. That film became a Broadway musical and that acclaimed show has now been filmed for audiences to appreciate. Directors Diane Paulus and Brett Sullivan have brought this sweet story to life in such a way that viewers will be particularly moved by the lead performance by the show’s star, Sara Bareilles. She plays Jenna Hunterson, a woman with big dreams living a life which is less than the one she deserves. Jenna works as a waitress in town and learns a lot about life and, ultimately, becomes her own person through the moving events that occur during the production.
Jenna is a specialist in the art of making pies and has a lot of talent which is sort of taken for granted by her self-centered and abusive husband, Earl (Joe Tippett). Jenna puts her passion into her love for baking despite her unfortunate domestic situation. Luckily, for Jenna, she has friends at work who inspire her and she, in turn, inspires them as well with heartwarming results.
So, Jenna, it turns out, is pregnant, however, which seems to complicate her already complicated simplistic life. Drew Gehling, in a complex performance, serves as Dr. Pomatter, an interesting professional who takes a liking to Jenna. The relationship formed between Jenna and the doctor could have been her ticket out of the problems she is facing with her husband but this production is smarter than that and keeps the events that transpire feeling somewhat realistic despite the songs that are showcased and interspersed within the film which give the audience that theatrical feel which only a Broadway musical can truly inspire.
Joe Tippett’s performance is nothing short of astounding as Earl. One very hard to watch, but pivotal, scene comes between Earl and Jenna as he discovers she has hidden money in the couch behind his back. Earl is really only interested in himself, it seems, though he claims to genuinely love Jenna. Tippett’s performance walks the line between making the character of Earl seem pathetic and being somewhat earnest and sincere underneath his hard exterior. It’s almost like Earl doesn’t realize how cruel he is in asking Jenna to give up her dreams. Ultimately, Earl is simply not good for Jenna due to his abusive nature but there is surprising depth in terms of the characterization by Tippett. The actor gives the role his everything and is one of the strongest elements of Waitress: The Musical.
The personal life of one of Jenna’s friends, the timid Dawn (the well-cast Caitlin Houlahan), makes for some upbeat scenes throughout here. Dawn ends up dating and befriending a male poet named Ogie (exquisitely played by the personable Christopher Fitzgerald). When Ogie shows up at Dawn’s job looking for her, it’s quite humorous and there are some big laughs sprinkled throughout the heartfelt moments of this portion of the story line.
Jenna is more than simply the pies she bakes and the romances she is a part of. She is a well-conceived character who never feels anything less than credible. Through everything that occurs in this film, she grows as a character and Bareilles never ceases to amaze through her work in this production. There are other characters who support Bareilles’s excellent performance. They include Charity Dawson as the energetic and personable co-worker, Becky, and the cook, Cal (Eric Anderson) who Becky takes a liking to. Also on board is the real boss of the establishment these characters work–the owner of the diner, Joe (Dakin Matthews).
Another humorous aspect here is that it tells us when the intermission was in the actual show. That was a clever touch which is quite amusing. Though this production feels lengthy, clocking in at just under two and a half hours, there is enough going on to make it worth the time investment for those who like tales of inspiration and friendship. There is also a real baby shown late in the movie which makes one wonder if they used a real infant on stage (probably not).
Waitress: The Musical is not a great film because of the limitations set by the fact that it is a filmed play. However, it’s very entertaining and those restrictions make the viewer more immersed in the human elements of the story line than they may have been if this were a traditional movie. In the end, because of the performances, it’s hard not to thoroughly enjoy this story even if some of the disturbing elements are ocassionally glanced over to make room for the more optimistic ones the plot embodies. This is ultimately a hopeful tale that teaches its audience to embrace their own dreams and to focus on the beautiful things in life which make it worth living. It’s worth ordering this movie on-demand where it is currently available.
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