(2005; Rob McKittrick, director)
As new guy Mitch (the suddenly towering John Francis Daley) begins his first day on the job at fern bar Shenanigan's,
he is asked a very important question: "How do you feel about male frontal nudity?" This turns out to be an equally important
question for the audience, and when I found myself wondering whether Luis Guzman used a penile prosthetic, at least I had
the answer to an important question that comes with every film: does this movie show me something I haven't seen before? The
answer is yes, but what you see may very well be something you will wish you hadn't.
The staff at Shenanigan's is crammed
with slacker stereotypes. There is a conflicted but all-around good guy. We meet his girlfriend, who is not too good but wishes
that Guy would figure out what he wants in life and pay some attention to her. There's the resident smartass, who is the coolest
guy at Shenanigan's, though one of the best jokes comes at his expense when he is told that such a position is "like being
the smartest kid with Down's Syndrome." A collection of oafs work the grill while Chi McBride dispenses wisdom from behind
the dishwashing station. To round things out we are even treated to a teenaged version of Jay and Silent Bob, though weighted
more towards drug humor and less towards profundity.
A large cast is always a potential liability, but in the case
of Waiting the sheer multitude of faces supports the feeling of being in a crowded
restaurant. There's always something going on or someone to cut to, which keeps the film from becoming too much like a forgotten
burger beneath a heat lamp. It helps that so many of these actors are gifted and that they throw themselves into the material
with such exuberance, particularly when their parts call for them to behave in unpleasant ways. Alanna Ubach is a perfect
example; her character Naomi vacillates from a deranged termagant to a flawless hostess between kitchen and dining room, and
Ubach makes it seem natural. As in so many of these stories featuring young layabouts in search of meaning there are a number
of rookies in the mix. It is no surprise, then, that more seasoned hams like Guzman steal the show.
The movie obviously
has lots to say about the existential side of waiting tables, but the more interesting scenes depict the behind-the-curtain
culture of restaurant life. We observe the antagonistic relationship between the grill crew and the wait staff, learn what
servers really think about their customers, and in one scene guaranteed to make you rethink ever eating out again, we see
the oft-imagined act of restaurant retribution – the application of bodily substances to a meal – acted out in
agonizing detail. It is this portion of the film that abruptly polarizes an audience: those who have never waited tables look
away in revulsion, while those who have look on in amusement or even feel moved to contribute some scattered applause.
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