I just got back from Waitress, a movie I originally agreed to see for somewhat-less-than-intellectual reasons (namely, if I go see movies that feature Nathan Fillion, Nathan Fillion will continue to make movies, thereby increasing my chances of seeing him without a shirt on). (Hello, Nathan Fillion. I'm pretty sure you are married, but personally, I don't tend to get hung up on archaic notions like monogamy. Just so you know.)
I am not a chick-flick kind of person, so I wasn't expecting to identify with the premise of the movie much. Personally, I think many movies specifically marketed at women are designed to reinforce harmful stereotypes - women who are saved from their vicious, workaday world by the love of a good man; women who, upon being saddled with someone else's children, come to realize that motherhood is their true calling, not the career they had worked so hard at over the past years; women who realize that the best way to fit into society is to look inward and change themselves, rather than look outward and change society. (For more details and/or examples, check out Susan Faludi's Backlash. Actually, even if you don't want details or examples, you should read Backlash.) When asked, a friend described Waitress to me as "the movie where Keri Russell bakes pies and hates her husband", and if there were a single sentence that encompasses the patriarchy better, by God, I don't know what it would say. Women, get back in the kitchen and seethe. It is your rightful place.
To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a gross understatement. The movie is chock-fucking-full of feminism! It's a modern marvel! It should be required viewing for all women! I have used up my daily quota of exclamation points!
Adrienne Shelly includes statements that I did not think one could make in movies and still make money off them. Case in point: at one point, Keri Russell refers to her fetus as a "parasite" - not as a pejorative, per se, because she makes very clear that she intends to keep the baby
- but as a statement of medical fact. No one intervenes to "correct" her on this point; no one argues with her or makes her feel any less for having made a factual statement. And Shelly's point is clear: it is possible for a woman to be pregnant, want to have a baby, want what's best for the baby, and still legitimately regard it as something other than a "snowflake angel", or whatever the new wingnutty term for fetuses is nowadays.
It extends beyond fetuses, the feminism, and into Keri Russell's relationships with the two significant men in her life: the doctor she has an affair with (Nathan Fillion) and her husband (Jeremy Sisto). Sisto's character is a perfect distillation of Nice Guy, never above knocking Russell around a bit for such high crimes as hiding money around the house. At one point, during an argument, a sobbing Sisto tells Russell, "you're the only person who ever belonged to me".
And that's just it. The crux of Russell's unhappiness in the movie is her being forced to play the role of someone who belongs to someone else; her love for Fillion arises from being treated like a person, being listened to. It is an audacious claim for a woman under the patriarchy to make, saying that she deserves to be listened to, and Shelly makes it over and over again.
The irony is, of course, that Shelly was murdered before the movie was released.