Moviehole at Sundance – Day 3


Reviews of “Waitress” and “Clubland”

With Paul Fischer

My third day and a quiet one, just two films and an interview.

First caught up with the luminous Zooey Deschanel, who talked at length about her role in The Good Life, as well as The Go Getter [which I’m seeing tomorrow] and The Bridge to Terabithia, opening next month.

Then it was time to rush off to see Waitress, directed by the late Adrienne Shelly. This delightful and moving comedy/drama casts Keri Russell in a career defining performance as Jenna, a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in a small southern town.
There she meets her new, married doctor/gynaecologist, a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness.
Waitress combines quirky humour with an added and enhanced sense of emotional truth. At times a wry comment on the complexities of relationships, at other times a moving portrait of a woman striving to adopt the courage to look forward and tear herself free from an abusive husband. Yet the film never seems coy or precious, deriving its humour from its collage of characters played with such effortless charm by the likes of Cheryl Hines, Shelly herself [both as fellow waitresses with their own relationship dilemmas], and a magnificent Andy Griffith who shines as the caustic owner of the pie shop in which Jenna finds occasional solace. A film about pies, love, impending motherhood and the desire to find inner strength, Waitress is a sublime work, full of infectious humour, a great soundtrack and a spellbinding performance by the exquisite Ms Russell. This minor masterpiece is a fitting and affecting finale from a major talent.
There is no doubt it will be sold imminently and will come to a neighbourhood multiplex sooner than later.

The Australian film Clubland, enjoying its world premiere here at Sundance, is a film to cheer about, and once again proves that Brenda Blethyn is of the great and brave actresses of her generation. Blethyn stars as a boozy, bawdy, overprotective mother, Jean, once a nightclub and TV performer in England a quarter of a century ago. Now in Sydney’s Western suburbs, divorced from the ex-singer who brought her to Australia two decades ago, she still performs her crass act in work class clubs on the weekend, while making chips and breakfasts in a canteen. Desperately clinging onto her past so-called glories, she smothers her two sons, one the mentally challenged Mark [a tour-de-force performance by Richard Wilson] and his 20-year old brother Tim [Khan Chittenden]. It is Tim’s growing relationship with the beautiful and assertive Jill [Emma Booth] that threatens to drive a wedge between himself and a mother desperately afraid of growing old and being alone, while Tim’s journey from sexual awkwardness evolves into his own journey of independence. It is no surprise that the applause greeted at the conclusion of Clubland was raucous and enthusiastic. Smartly written by the talented Keith Thompson and directed energetically, with style and eloquence by the extraordinary Cherie Nowlan [Thank God He Met Lizzie], Clubland is both very Australian in tone and vernacular yet universal in its comment on coming to terms with your past and growing older. Blethyn is simply magnificent here, vulnerable, pathetic and tragic in many ways, yet so human as she finally accepts what life has in store for her. Her final scene, singing a duet with legendary Australian rocker/actor Frankie J. Holden is alone worth the price of admission. Holden, by the way, is wonderful. Emma Booth is a find and a half as the beautiful and passionate Jill and Khan Chittenden is charmingly naïve as Tim.
A boisterous, irreverent and visually striking Australian film, Clubland is a truly special piece of cinema that is destined for commercial longevity, both in its native Australia and the world. More on this film in a few days when I talk to both Nowlan and Blethyn.

Tomorrow, I am one of the first to review Anthony Hopkins’ directorial debut, Slipstream, and chat to the man himself. Plus Christian Slater, Keri Russell and the stars of Rocket Science, as Sundance continues for this weary but excited writer.