12. Waitress (2007) [Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language and thematic elements.]

summary from imdb.com:

Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.

directed by: Adrienne Shelly

starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison

Conservo-Libertarian Reviews:
James Bowman
Ann Althouse
The Bit Maelstrom
movieguide.org Christian reviews

A Trailer

Abortion/Life Content:

Adrienne Shelly: Dear Lord, please protect our Jenna from the hell of unwanted pregnancy.

Keri Russell: I don’t need no baby. I don’t want no trouble. I just want to make pies. That’s all I want to do, make pies.

Cheryl Hines: I thought you weren’t sleeping with your husband no more.

Adrienne: He got her drunk one night.

Keri: I should never drink. I do stupid things when I drink, like sleep with my husband. Oh, no! Looks like a pink line is forming. ####.

Cheryl: One line or two lines? One line or two lines?

Keri: Two lines! The control line and the other line, the bad line, the “yes” line.

Cheryl: Let me see that now. Two lines, two definite lines. There’s no mistaking them.

Lew Temple: What’s going on in there? We have customers! Where are my waitresses?

Cheryl: Hold your ##### straight, Cal. Jenna ain’t feeling well.

Lew: What’s wrong with her?

Cheryl: It’s none of your business, you blowhard.

Keri: I’m fine, Cal! We’ll be right out.

Lew: Hurry up!

Adrienne: Hon, you okay?

Keri: Shh. I’m inventing a new pie in my head. Tomorrow’s blue plate special. I’m calling it “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie. “

Adrienne: I don’t think we can write that on the menu board, hon.

Keri: Then I’ll just call it “Bad Baby Pie. “

Adrienne: What’s in it, honey?

Keri: It’s a quiche of egg and Brie cheese with a smoked ham center.

Nathan Fillion: So… What seems to be the problem?

Keri Russell: Well, I seem to be pregnant.

Nathan: Good. Good for you. Congratulations.

Keri: Thanks, but I don’t want this baby.

Nathan: Oh, well, we don’t perform… uh…

Keri: No, I’m keeping it, I’m just telling you I’m not so happy about it like everybody else might be. So maybe you can be sensitive and not congratulate me and make a big deal every time you see me. I’m having the baby, and that’s that. It’s not a party, though.

Nathan: Got it, okay, not a party. Uh, well, then, why don’t we, um… we’ll have to do a blood test, make sure you’re pregnant and then we’ll check for diseases, hormone levels, stuff like that?

Keri: Sounds like a plan. […]

Nathan: Well, un-congratulations… you’re definitely having a baby.

Keri: Un-thank you.

Nathan: So for the next eight months, if you need me, I’m here. If you have any questions, just give a call. […]

Keri: I do have one question.

Nathan: Shoot.

Keri: How pregnant am I, exactly?

Nathan: Very pregnant. There’s really only one degree of pregnancy, so to speak.

Keri: No, I mean, uh, how far along am I?

Nathan: Uh, about six weeks, give or take.

Keri: Yeah, that was Earl getting me drunk that night, all right.

Keri Russell: “Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life Pie.” New York-style cheesecake, brandy brushed, with pecans and nutmeg.

Keri Russell: Hey, you know, I was thinking. Have you ever heard about those people who sell their babies for lots of money through, like, lawyers and stuff?

Adrienne Shelly: Jenna, you can’t sell your baby. That’s a horrible thought.

Keri: I was just thinking, if I did, I might make enough money to finally get away from Earl. I mean, at this point, the baby is the only real financial asset I have if I don’t win that pie contest.

Adrienne: I am going to pretend that you are not saying this.

Keri: Not everybody wants to be a mama, Dawn. That don’t make me a bad person.

Cheryl Hines: You’re not getting any more affectionate towards that little baby? Not at all?

Keri: I respect this baby’s right to thrive. I do nothing harmful to it. I don’t drink, I watch my diet, but no. I feel nothing like affection. Maybe that man smothered all the affection out of me. I don’t know.

Keri Russell: First Letter To My Baby. First letter. […] Dear baby… Dear baby, if I was writing you a letter, it would probably sound something like an apology. I know everyone deserves a mama who’d want a nice baby such as yourself… who was also a good wife, a fine member of society. And I can’t rightly say that I’m any of that, and I’m not sure the world is such a fine place to be bringing you. Many of the people I’ve met are not worth meeting. Many of the things that happen are not worth living through. And you shouldn’t take it personal, baby, if I don’t seem like all the other mamas-to-be, jumping all over themselves with joy. I frankly don’t know what I got to give you, baby. What if I leave Earl and don’t win that contest next week and don’t have no money? What the hell am I going to do with you then? […] All my life, baby, the only thing I ever want to do is run away. What kind of mama is that? I wish I could feel other things, baby. Like excitement that you’re with me now or faith that I’ll be a good mama, even if my life ain’t such a good place and the world as I see it ain’t so pretty like they’d have you believe in this book. Anyway, I’m writing this letter to you. It sounds more like a letter to me, don’t it? Love, Mama.

Jeremy Sisto: Here’s the thing, wife… What if you decide to love the baby more than you love me? Women do it all the time. They have a baby and then it’s to hell with the man.

Keri Russell: You’re jealous of the baby?

Jeremy: No, I don’t get jealous. It’s below me. I’m just talking it out. I’m talking my feelings out. And I know how women get. And I’m just not sure I want that happening. I’d tell you to get rid of it, but I want you in the same place as me in the hereafter, if you know what I mean. Maybe if you promise me that you wouldn’t love the baby more than you love me. You know? That you’d make a real effort to love me more. If I need something, you’d keep taking care of it. You’d hold on to me more. I come first… not any baby. Well, can you make Early that promise?

Keri: Absolutely.

Jeremy: Then say “I promise. “

Keri: I promise.

Jeremy: Say “I promise I will not love the baby more than I love you, Early. “

Keri: I promise I will not love the baby more than I love you, Early.

Jeremy: How about that? We’re going to have ourselves a baby. A baby boy. I bet it happened that night I got you all drunk. Where you going?

Keri: Gotta throw up.

Some woman: Mrs. Hunterson, the doctor will see you now.

Lauri Johnson: Hi there. I’m Nurse Norma. I’ll be helping Dr. Pomatter with your ultrasound examination today. You have any questions?

Keri Russell: This is where we look at the baby’s heartbeat?

Lauri: Yes, among other things. You nervous?

Keri: No. Do I seem nervous?

Lauri: Yes, you do. That’s normal. Everybody’s nervous before their first ultrasound.

Keri: I’m not nervous, though.

Lauri: Okay, you’re not nervous.

Keri: Come in. I’m dressed. Hello, Doctor.

Nathan Fillion: Hello, Mrs. Hunterson. How have you been feeling?

Keri: Fine.

Nathan: No problems?

Keri: Nope.

Nathan: You had no questions or concerns this past month.

Keri: No, I certainly did not.

Nathan: Okay, well, lie back. Uh, Norma, would you get the lights for me? All right, this isn’t going to hurt at all. It’s just going to be a little cold. Here we go. All right. Okay, just a little pressure. Now what are we looking at? Ah, there we are. We are definitely having a baby. You want to see?

Keri: I guess.

Nathan: Just look at the screen. There. Everything looks great. You see that little… that flickering right there in the middle of the screen?

Keri: Yeah. Right there.

Nathan: That’s the heartbeat.

Lauri: Congratulations, Mrs. Hunterson.

Keri: Glory be. Hallelujah.

Nathan: Uh, Mrs. Hunterson doesn’t really like to be congratulated.

Lauri: Oh, sorry.

Keri: Huh. Don’t really look like much at this point. Certainly don’t look like no baby yet.

Nathan: Well…

Nathan Fillion: You’re pregnant. You’ve got a little baby growing inside you. There is nothing more beautiful.

Keri Russell: It’s an alien and a parasite. It makes me tired and weak. It complicates my whole life. I resent it. I have no idea how to take care of it. I’m the anti-mother. I don’t want to talk about that no more.

Keri Russell: Dear damn baby… If’n you ever want to know the story of how we bought your damn crib, I will tell you. Your crib was bought with the money that was supposed to buy me a new life. Every time I lay you down in that damn crib, I’m going to think, “Damn baby, damn crib. Me stuck like a pin in this damn life.”

[after baby is born:]

Keri Russell: Lulu… that’s your name. Little Lulu. We’re going to have so much fun, little girl. We’re going to have so… much… fun.

Keri Russell: Here, give Lulu to me.

Cheryl Hines: Okay. Go see your mommy.

Keri: Hi! Geez, I never seen a baby this beautiful. You ever seen a baby this beautiful?

Adrienne Shelly: No.

Keri, singing:

Baby, don’t you cry
Gonna make a pie
Gonna make a pie
with a heart in the middle

Baby, don’t be blue
Gonna make for you
Gonna make a pie
with a heart in the middle

Gonna be a pie
from heaven above
Gonna be filled
with strawberry love

Baby, don’t you cry
gonna make a pie
Hold you forever
in the middle of my heart.


from NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland:

The producer of “Waitress,” Michael Roiff, said Adrienne Shelly, the film’s writer and director, weighed the concept of abortion as the “good New York liberal” she was. But from a story point of view, Ms. Shelly, who was murdered last year in her New York office, found richer material following the pregnancy through, Mr. Roiff said.

“We didn’t worry about the political ramifications,” he said. “It’s a story about the power of motherhood.”

about the death of the movie’s director, from Michelle Malkin’s blog:

A 19-year-old construction worker flipped out, hitting and strangling indie actress Adrienne Shelly with a bed sheet because she dared to call him a “son of a bitch,” police sources said yesterday.

Ecuadorian illegal immigrant Diego Pillco told cops he took that insult literally and became enraged during a confrontation with the pint-sized actress last week over noise he was making in the apartment below her Greenwich Village office, sources said.

Police also revealed that Shelly, 40, desperately tried to fight off the baby-faced worker during the attack, leaving scratch marks on his face.

“She didn’t go easily,” said a law-enforcement source.

Visit the Adrienne Shelly Foundation

from FilmChat:

But consider 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 do not necessarily assume that Shelley set out to make a “pro-life movie” — but I do think the film suggests, in its own way, that affirming life in the most basic sense is the key to truly living. (I am vaguely reminded of how, in the 1980s, Woody Allen called himself “pro-choice” yet consistently depicted pregnancy as a hopeful thing and abortion as the death of hope.)

from Ann Hornaday:

At first glance, “Waitress” and “Knocked Up” seem to have little in common, aside from proving to be chug-along successes this summer. The former, a Southern-fried, sweet-natured chick flick, stars Keri Russell as a gutsy young woman who yearns to break free of her stultifying life by baking pies; the latter, a ribald, testosterone-fueled sex comedy from Judd Apatow, offers a decidedly ruder take on love, relationships and commitment.

But at their hearts, both deal — or, rather, choose not to deal — with a subject that dare not speak its name: abortion. Both films are predicated on unplanned pregnancies and both confect, through all manner of narrative conceits and messy logic, reasons for their female protagonists to carry their unwanted babies to term (and, in the case of “Knocked Up,” wind up with so the wrong guy).

Russell, as “Waitress’s” tart-tongued heroine Jenna, is the grumpiest mom-to-be. Informed that she is with child, she furrows her brow and snaps at the doctor who congratulates her. When he observes her unhappiness and awkwardly informs her that his clinic “doesn’t perform . . .,” she cuts him off, brushing the implied option aside as brusquely as she received the news of her pregnancy. Later, Jenna considers “selling” her baby through a high-powered lawyer, indicating that the film’s late writer-director, Adrienne Shelly, was as uncomfortable with the word “adoption” as she was with “abortion.”

here’s a review from a cranky apparently-pro-abortion-leftist who even managed to get in a Grover Norquist dig from out of nowhere:

…Like so much of what is honored at Sundance, Waitress looks like Grover Norquist’s idea of an indie film: a slice of life about a waitress whose two talents are birthing babies and cooking pies. […]

Pull back from the scenery and the art direction, though, and note the essence of this patronizing fairy tale. The way Shelly lays it out, waitress Jenna (Keri Russell) is a country girl, a pie-baking sweetie at Joe’s Pie Cafe whose answer for life’s predicaments is to try to invent a new dessert. […]

Jenna won’t even think of doing what you might want to do if you are pregnant, you don’t want to be and you hate your husband. Waitress can’t even bring itself to mention the terrible word “abortion.” Shelly sweeps that possibility off the table with the abruptness of a waitress clearing the way for a packed dinner rush.

We’re meant to admire Jenna’s gumption for going through with it, deciding to link herself for life with a man she hates by having a baby she doesn’t want. In this, she receives emotional support from her two sassy colleagues, played with the archness of a brace of drag queens…

from Christianity Today:

In Waitress, Keri Russell plays Jenna, who ends up with an unwanted pregnancy from her abusive husband. Jenna makes some poor and selfish choices, but saves her most unselfish decision for the life growing inside her: She opts to have the baby, a choice that becomes her saving grace.

from Gerard Baker:

Oddly – and here’s what’s causing the trouble – while most women in real life will choose to have an abortion in these circumstances, neither film features any consideration of a termination. In Knocked Up, the very word is avoided completely – the closest is when one of the characters suggests maybe the heroine should have a procedure that rhymes with “shmashmortion”. In Waitress, the lead character suggests she’d rather sell the baby than get rid of it, and in the end chooses to dump her man rather than her foetus.

This has some feminists outraged. They point out that in Hollywood, for decades – in everything from Sex and the City to Parenthood – women confronted with an unplanned pregnancy almost always choose to keep the baby. It is odd that Hollywood does this, given that it is a famously liberal bastion of the “pro-choice” position. If abortion, a tool for women to make their lives better, is such an important right, as Hollywood liberals passionately believe, then why not celebrate it with some positive, abortion-affirming role models? […]

No, there’s a much better and simpler explanation. The reality is that few people – whatever their political views – want to go and see a film where a woman chooses to have an abortion. We go to the cinema in large part to be inspired; to be reminded that, while we go through our real lives making messy moral compromises and falling way short of our ideals, there are some people, on screen at least, who do the good and moral and honourable thing. And confronted with the awful trauma of an unwanted pregnancy, almost all of the time choosing to have the baby is the good and moral and honourable thing to do.

Of course admitting this would be problematic for the “pro-choice” crowd. It would involve admitting that the “choice” they vehemently defend is not really a moral choice at all. But rather that it is a choice between doing something – however understandable and forgivable in difficult circumstances – that is inherently expedient and selfish, and doing something that is inherently good and self-denying.

And that makes you think a bit deeper about the “choice” question. The defenders of abortion like to say that choosing to have a termination is an agonising decision – and certainly many women will attest to this. But they also say that abortion presents no deep moral problem because it does not represent the taking of a human life.

So if having an abortion is no more than the disposal of an unwanted clump of cells, why on earth should a woman feel so bad about it?

In this newspaper recently Caitlin Moran wrote that she put more thought into choosing a design for her new kitchen than she did into a choice to have an abortion. This caused a bit of a stir, but if you think hard about it, it’s the only truly consistent moral position an abortion-rights defender can feel comfortable in taking. Otherwise, what on earth have they wrought?

After years of wondering whether we’ll ever change society’s permissive attitude towards abortion, I’m convinced that we will some day come to view it in the way we now view slavery, a moral abomination that generations simply became inured to by usage and practice. […]

When even Hollywood declines to celebrate the moral courage involved in choosing an abortion, it might be time we all woke up to what abortion really is.

from Write No Evil:

I forgot in my post “Abortion in the Movies” to include “Waitress,” a movie about a waitress (Keri Russell) impregnated by her repugnant husband somewhere in the deep south. She carries her baby to term, all the while baking brilliant pies and struggling to escape her suffocating marriage. “Waitress” is probably the most mature of the comedies I mentioned in its treatment of the pregnancy itself, with Keri Russell’s character alternating between hostility and love for her little burden. What finally enables her to take control of her life is not, as in “Juno,” finding true love, but rather finding profound joy in motherhood. Of course, she gets the cute northern gyno in the bargain. Unlike “Knocked Up,” I thought the movie did a good job of conveying particular reasons why Keri Russell’s character wouldn’t have an abortion.

from Slate.com:

Russell’s performance gets at the roller-coaster ambivalence of pregnancy: She’s stalwart and flaky at the same time. (Although, especially when she speaks of the fetus as an “alien” and a “parasite,” you have to wonder why abortion is never even mentioned as an option. Is it because a movie with a protagonist who dares to consider such a thing would never find an audience?) The problem with Waitress is that no one, regardless of geographic origin or education level, talks the way these characters do. One minute Jenna’s protesting her pregnancy in the drawl of a Li’l Abner character (“I don’t want no baby!”), the next she’s defending her decision to keep it in the patter of a pro-life lawyer (“I respect this child’s right to thrive”).

from “Sex Like Men?”

but in other films like Waitress, a celebration of motherhood can be a real celebration of women. Jenna, played by Keri Russell, is trapped in an awful marriage, so sunk in her misery and thwarted at every attempt to escape, that she can hardly summon the energy to hope any more. In the last minutes of the film, she gives birth–it is experiencing that sudden happiness in another being that enables her to snap out of her depression and change her life. Waitress (#9 at the box office) is a sweet movie, in which having a baby instantaneously fixes all the main character’s problems.

Sounds lovely. And it probably rings a little true for many people–this sense of being called to motherhood. Still, even if we feel that way, it’s not wrong to want to do it right, when we’re ready, and for parenting to take its place alongside a number of other experiences. The risk of idealizing motherhood is that it makes having a baby seem like the peak, the meaning, of a woman’s life.

Before we get to this happy ending, though, Waitress offers rather a different view on pregnancy (which is perhaps what makes the ending feel sweet not sappy). Not only does Jenna despise her mean, abusive husband, but she finds out she’s pregnant just when she was finally forming a plan to escape him. The baby is nothing but a burden on her–she contemplates selling it, but not for a second does anyone suggest an abortion. My parents and I saw this movie one week after we saw Knocked Up. “Too many movies about pregnancy,” my dad complained as we walked out of the theatre. I was thinking something more along the lines of, “Too many movies about scary unwanted pregnancy and too few movies that offer abortion as an option.” I guess I wasn’t the only one thinking that; yesterday’s Sunday Styles included a piece by Mireya Navarro on these very two movies and the unsavory question of abortion in film.

Waitress is really honest about the unhappy side of pregnancy. Jenna makes bitter remarks about the baby she’s carrying and suggests that not every woman has to feel like a mother. Very true. Most of those women who wind up pregnant but don’t feel (yet, or ever) like mothers do choose to have abortions–almost two-thirds according to Navarro’s article.

Stevens points out in her review that, at the very least, allowing Alison to have a straightforward discussion of her options, including abortion, would simply develop her character a little more, making her more rounded and more believable. It’s one thing that Knocked Up and Waitress present us with women who feel all kinds of ambivalence, sadness, and hesitation about being pregnant. But when that initial reluctance is consistently transformed into feeling that a baby is the greatest blessing that could have come into their lives, women’s experiences get left out of the picture. The result of course is movies and shows that are palatable to a wider audience, what makes Gilmore Girls, for instance, so very family-friendly.

I recently watched Disappearing Acts again. In that movie, Sanaa Lathan’s character Zora gets pregnant while dating Franklin, played by Wesley Snipes. But they’re having trouble and it’s terrible timing, especially as her recording career is about to take off and Franklin is in and out of construction jobs. She doesn’t tell him about the baby and it seems that she’s planning on having an abortion, when he figures it out and drunkenly confronts her. “Please don’t kill my baby,” Franklin begs repeatedly, holding onto Zora’s belly. She doesn’t. Later, he gets mad because Zora, now very pregnant and still working as a teacher and recording, is too exhausted to have sex with him.

And that’s what bothers me so much, the way the female body gets co-opted in these optimistic stories about pregnancy. That’s why I cried for Alison, because her life and body were going to go through this strange scary thing that she hadn’t asked for, and because I knew an abortion would never be treated as a viable option, not in this world. In Waitress, there are a few jokey references to how Jenna must have gotten pregnant “that night Earl got me drunk”; once we meet the abusive Earl, it’s not really funny anymore. He has so thoroughly crushed Jenna’s spirit that this pregnancy feels like just one more violent way of commandeering her identity and imprisoning her in this miserable life.

Pregnancy does not always solve the problem, it does not always turn the wrong guy into the right one or fill you with the strength to embrace life. Sometimes pregnancy is the problem. It took me about one second of knowing Alison and Jenna to viscerally identify with their feelings of fear and frustration. That’s a fairly reasonable experience for women, even if it’s not one that studios, comedy writers, conservatives, or men want to acknowledge.

here’s commenter Artemis at the “Gender Across Borders” blog who was rooting for abortion:

The thing that pisses me off about Waitress is that the main character spends the entire film- the ENTIRE film- going on about how she doesn’t want children. Independently of the abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband, she just doesn’t want children. I was rooting for her to get an abortion or to give up the child for adoption b/c I can relate to the complete lack of mothering instincts in her. Then, BAM!, she’s suddenly in love with the kid, and the deux ex machina of the old man leaving her boatloads of money makes her financially stable enough to support the child. It was as if someone else wrote the last 10 minutes of the film, or something. Why can’t we see more films in which the female protagonist who doesn’t like/want children stays that way through the end? Instead, we get all these gooey “the mothering instinct is a part of womanhood” type endings in which they all find their inner moms (see Baby Boom).

from the pro-abortion commenter dee at feministing.com:

My husband and I went and saw ‘Waitress’ last weekend and I thought I would puke.


It’s about a waitress, married to an abusive man, and he gets her drunk and she discovers she is pregnant. She spends the first half of the movie lamenting how unhappy she is about being pregnant and is trying to stash money so she can make a getaway from this abusive guy. She has told her ‘secret’ to her co-workers but her husband doesn’t know.

So this guy is pretty much a control freak and is beating on her and making her life a living hell. Yet, she says at one point, something like, “I respect the right of this unborn child to live.”

To make along story short, her husband finds the money she has saved and for fear of having the crap beat out of her she tells him she is pregnant. He makes her promise that she won’t love the baby more than him. Ugh.

Throughout the film she is a real doormat but in the hospital room after giving birth she takes one look at her newborn baby girl, and gets this sudden strength and turns to her low life husband and tells him to get lost. Of course it takes several men to drag him from the hospital room.

The ill owner of the restaurant where she works dies and leaves her a sizable sum of money and she ends up buying the diner and the movie ends showing her and her little daughter walking together in the warm glow on a summer evening….living happily ever after.

What it doesn’t show is the mad nut she is married to getting half of the money she was given, owing half of her business, and the hassle of fighting for visitation rights/custody of the little girl.

All through the movie I was hoping she would wise up and terminate the pregnancy she pissed and moaned about throughout the film.

I suppose it made for a nice fantasy-like story but had it been real that woman would have a major headache on her hands.

from ExileStreet:

This same weekend, a PG-13-rated film, Waitress, has also found its way into the box office top ten. It depicts a woman’s commitment to her unplanned, unwanted pregnancy and the positive, life-changing effects that follow.

Yes, these films are inappropriate on many levels. But there is no escaping the fact that we are witnessing two Hollywood films in simultaneous release that value unborn life, openly reject the call for abortion, and argue that children can positively affect the lives of those who have them. And that’s a far cry from the “kids as parasitic cancers” rhetoric propagated by some in the population control and abortion rights crowd.

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1 Response to Waitress

  1. Pingback: Welcome | Abortion in Film

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