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A Two Thumbs Up Pie, with Whipped Cream and a Cherry on Top!!
Life is all about the pursuit of happiness, or so it is stated in the Constitution of the United States of America. And in the latest independent film, Waitress, directed by the late, but-oh- so-talented Adrienne Shelly, the constant search for something uplifting and inspirational floods the screen in a blend of humor, forbidden romance and saliva-forming pie delicacies.
Opening at Sundance to rave reviews from critics all around, the film has since been traveling nationwide for free screenings in an easy attempt at 'word-of-mouth' marketing. If people don't already have a mouthful of pie to stop them from talking, you'll be hearing wondrous comments about this story.
Jenna (played by Russell) is a small-time waitress at a pie shop in a small-time town in that little slice of America we all believed to be dormant. But when her abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto) gets her drunks one night and impregnates her, her world is ready to turn upside down. Jenna had always dreamt of an escape from her present life; a fresh start. Cue Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) who jump-starts Jenna's lust for life and true love as her replacement gynecologist. With a bun in the oven, Jenna's baking endeavors skyrocket with the hopes of winning $25,000 in a pie contest and one last shot at escaping her terrible husband. Whether it be on her own or in the arms of her doctor is an intense decision she must decide.
Keri Russell, according to my insight and sources, seemed to fall off the face of Celluloid Earth once her Felicity series ended. Aside from a run of small roles in big/mediocre films, none have really heard any from her. She reminds us how beautiful those homegrown country girls can be: how defenseless, how passionate and how much they can offer intellectually, spiritually and on a culinary level. Keri Russell is back, and ready to bite!!
Nathan Fillion is known to too many as a wisecracking captain of a starship in outer space, so seeing him as a nerdy, anxiety-encompassed gynecologist was almost a stretch. But his subtle and not over-the-top acting brought the beautiful degree of chemistry between Russell's character and his. It was his moment to shine in a situation he wasn't used to, and his light burned bright. His comedic timing was spot-on, and sharing the screen with Russell left us craving more intimate moments not shown so such on the silver screen anymore.
Jeremy Sisto is the controlling husband we all love to hate. He wears his insecurities on his sleeve, continually forcing his wife to remind him that she loves him and will never do anything behind his back. The brute of the film, he talks himself out of his emotions and talks himself into thinking he is right all the time. The headstrong type are usually never right; though the casting choice left the audience wondering how much one can really despise Sisto's character. A stellar performance indeed.
The ensemble supporting cast was mixed better than any dessert I could ever construct. The on screen personas provided by Cheryl Hines, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly, and even Eddie Jemison left each scene standing alone on its own. Every character in this gem is working hard to find happiness although some search in the wrong places; sometimes through lust, sometimes through spontaneous poetry and stalking while sometimes laying a hard hand on the one they walked down the aisle with years ago.
In this film, there is a sexual revolution for one woman and her doctor. In this film, there is a life to be given to one baby. In this film, there is nothing but good-ole pie to eat. Waitress is a humble return to the romantic comedy genre; one not relying on humor to carry the film or its romance. Like the pies created inside its running time, it takes just the proper blend of all the ingredients to make everything taste absolutely perfect. Order up!!
Brooklyn Rules (2007)
All Roads Lead To Rome in "Brooklyn Rules."
Entrance into the dangerous mob world is easily within the reach of the three main characters. Michael has aspirations of becoming a lawyer; a dream sometimes thought unattainable due to his background. Carmine has always been fascinated with the mob, and when the local gangster takes an interest in him, he can fall victim to the life of crime, false respect, money and bloodshed. Bobby is forced to grow up, face reality, and finally take the reins of his two-year relationship with his girlfriend. It was a simpler time years ago, but as they grow up, they run the risk of growing apart.
This film shows the unbreakable bonds between neighborhood friends, despite what roads they take in life. We've all grown up on a street block so it is almost too easy to connect with characters who have known each other since they were in their mothers' wombs. Time and change is their worst enemy: their interests, goals and obligations change as each develop into their own man. Its dark in the nightclubs. Its bright on Columbia University's campus. It is real. The design of the film makes it feel as more of a memory in the back of your mind than a visual representation of the celebrated 1980's; where musical ballads showcased a way of life for all to live up to and a disgustingly large amount of hair spray was found on the top of everyone's head. Looking ahead twenty years, we are bombarded with spam emails, endless tele-marketers from a different country and credit card offers with the highest percentage rate stuffed in your mailbox. Things were certainly simpler before technology took the helm.
The pacing is as organic as a story on film can get. Its well-balanced: not too much violence, not too much love, not too many wisecracks and you can easily sink into your seat and relax scene by fruitful scene. It flows more swift than the Blackstone and leaves you wanting more by the end. The music of the times aided heavily in the film's soundtrack, once again resorting to the fitting tracks of artists such as the Rolling Stones. This film's soundtrack reminds me how easily the right music can lift a scene and burn it into your memory. These days, some people remember songs by what film they were used in, and I suffer from that diagnosis honorably.
Corrente has rejuvenated many of the actors' careers in this film. Sadly enough, what does everyone remember Freddie Prinze Jr. (Michael) from: Wing Commander? Scooby-Doo? I shiver at the thought of him being remembered for those celluloid disasters. This film let him flaunt his acting chops for once in his life, and it certainly paid off. He sports a range that will make most women quiver: that of a guy from dirty Brooklyn who once thought he could only dream of something better. But now, he's got the means to do so and Prinze Jr. glistens on the screen rather than being set aside in the hunt for the latest ghost inhabiting an old run- down hotel. Scott Caan (Carmine) displays the perfect 'wannabe-wiseguy,' reminding me constantly of local denizens I see in passing on the streets or in the local bar. Rhode Island takes its movies home with them; sadly I just don't hear anyone imitating Yoda on the streets as of late. Caan has certainly put himself next to his father (James Caan) in terms of selecting his roles and diving into the character headfirst. Leave the cannoli, keep Caan. His talent leaves hope for other actors his age. Jerry Ferrara (Bobby) is the real heart of the film. His character, Bobby, easily breaks him away from his Entourage mold. His endless dedication to his best friends make us yearn to go back in time when all we'd have to do is toss a pebble at a friend's window to get them outside and hang out, compared to playing phone tag on cell phones during rush hour. He's the sweet and devoted bedrock we wish we'd always had growing up. He never ventures too far away; he knows his place and he is happy with that.
Alec Baldwin bestows a solid foundation and teasing entry into the underworld of organized crime. He hasn't been this appealing since The Hunt For Red October and you find yourself wanting to be taken under his protective wing. Though he is the personification of corruption on the streets, his long-distant charm has finally made its way back to his portrayals. Mena Suvari provides the outside point-of-view that the film demanded. She plays a Connecticut girl attending the prestigious Columbia University while learning firsthand of the grungy side of life: fist-fights, respect and remembering where you always come from. Since there is lack of a police presence in this 'crime' movie, Suvari's character acts as the closest translator for the audience. She is the conscience, reminding what is right and wrong even in a life filled with crime, crisis and turmoil.
"Rules" has something for everyone. It is laced extensively with priceless comedic moments, hidden yet-torturous gangster scenes shot in tribute of The Public Enemy, and the most subtle and gentle scenes that make a guy feel lucky to have a girl by his side. This isn't a mob movie, although many will strongly disagree.
This buddy film beautifully lays the pavement for another "Buddy" picture; one I am sure all of Providence and its surrounding counties has been craving to see. Michael Corrente has always returned to his roots and it certainly shows in his films. Hollywood won't be getting him anytime soon; he's rather comfortable right here in our neck of the woods providing the kind of well-rounded pictures we thought were long extinct.