Food Fostering Relationships of Love in The Waitress
by Suejette Black
Food often carries feelings. Many foods can be significant in people’s lives in more than just a sense of nutrition; they can bring back memories of home or loved ones or foster relationships that can only come over a shared dish. In the film The Waitress, director Adrienne Shelly reveals this ability of food by demonstrating how the baking of pies can build bonds of love.
Jenna, a small town waitress at a pie diner, is known for her unbeatable pies. She hopes to use her talents to win a pie baking contest and escape from her abusive husband. Her plan goes slightly awry, though, as she goes through an unexpected pregnancy, but finds solace and catharsis in her baking. Through out the film, her pie baking and gifting brings her closer to her coworkers, customers, doctor, and her baby. Scenes of Jenna baking pies are usually scored with fantastical orchestra music and are filled with bright colors bringing feelings of happiness and a cliché sense of baking with love. One of the most notable relationships she forms through her pies is with the grumpy, lonely owner of the diner who comes in everyday. Despite his rather rude demeanor, it is clear that he loves Jenna’s pies and grows to care for her as the film progresses. Just by showing him kindness and serving him pies, the two form an unusual connection as he seems to become a protective, father-like figure to her. The impact Jenna has on his life is clear, when he dies at the end of the film and leaves Jenna $20,000 to open her own pie shop.
Even stronger connections are formed though Jenna’s baking with her daughter. Although Jenna initially did not want to have a baby, it’s clear that after she is born she falls instantly in love with the child. Towards the end of the film, Jenna sings a song to her daughter while baking a pie, just as Jenna’s mom had done with her. The same familiar piano music opens the scene and fades out as a close-up shot shows a bowl of melted chocolate filling being swirled. The camera pans out over her baking station and moves to her as she rocks her baby and sings the lullaby with only the quiet non-diagetic sound of a piano in the background. Natural lighting shines in through the window and occasionally illuminates her and the baby in their matching bright yellow dresses and aprons. It then cuts to a pan over a table of the finished pies of saturated green, yellow, and pink colors. Hands come scooping up bites with their forks as more upbeat country music comes on. The total scene has a feeling of a happy fairytale ending, with the focus on the pies seeming to suggest that they were what brought about the love and happiness shown in the end of the film. Despite being a slightly sappy movie, the message shown that food can be a source of connection and love was portrayed well through the cinematographic choices.
The Waitress. Dir. Adrienne Shelly. Perf. Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Jeremy Sisto. Fox, 2007. ITunes.