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I know what's right for me; it's the only thing I've ever (I've never) done

6.09.2016

I can't remember exactly when I saw Adrienne Shelly's Waitress (2007) but it was right after I graduated from college, and when the credits rolled my first thought was, "Maryann, if you ever feel even a little bit bad about being single or unmarried, watch this movie."

The main character is Jenna (Keri Russell), a small-town pie-maker whose husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) is a narcissistic, immature, possessive, controlling (of her time and finances), demeaning, demanding, jealous abuser. She's been secretly saving a portion of her waitressing pay to use to escape Earl, but then ends up accidentally pregnant with his baby after he gets her drunk one night.

Her usual doctor is semi-retired, so when she goes in for pre-natal check-ups she meets the caring, kind & tender (but married) Dr. Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), with whom she starts an affair. But then when the baby comes, she ends things with Earl for good, tells Dr. Pomatter "thank you" but to go back to his wife, and is gifted a large sum of money from the crotchety old diner owner (Andy Griffith) who slipped into a coma that same day. In the end, she owns the pie diner and walks off into the sunset with her young daughter, Lulu.

The film has a sweet but powerful message about female empowerment and independence--showing that having a life with love and family does not have to equal a life under the dominion of a patriarchal, misogynist abuser. Which is a part of why the murder of the film's writer/director/co-set designer/co-costume designer/co-star Adrienne Shelly (Dawn Williams) at the hands of a male construction worker from her apartment building, is so tragic and horrifying. He killed her before the film could open at Sundance the next year, the end of which features her own two-year-old daughter Sophie as Jenna's daughter Lulu. Since then, the Women's Film Critics Circle gives an annual Adrienne Shelly Award to the film that "most passionately opposes violence against women."

Stage rights were purchased in 2007, the creative team assembled in 2013, and the musical opened on Broadway in April 2016, with music & lyrics by pop singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. I like Sara's music a lot, but it's not my favorite, so when I first gave a listen to the songs I was generally unmoved. But then I saw it was starring Jessie Mueller, an amazing Broadway performer, and kept hearing about how good the show was from people I trust, so I decided to YouTube a song from the show. I started with a 'sneak preview' of the song "Bad Idea," and I was completely hooked. I downloaded the album and have had it on repeat ever since. Here are my favorite songs, from best to also very good.

1) "Bad Idea" by Jessie Mueller and Drew Gehling



I know what's right for me
It's the only thing I've ever (I've never) done
What if I never see myself ever be 
anything more than what I've already become
I need a bad idea
I need a bad idea
I need a bad idea
Just one


2) "Soft Place to Land" by Jessie Mueller, Kimiko Glenn, and Keala Settle


But dreams are elusive
the kind we've gotten used to is 
nothing I can feel
nothing I can hold
nothing I can have
nothing that I know

3) "When He Sees Me" by Kimiko Glenn



I'm not defensive I'm simply being cautious 
I can't risk reckless dating due to my miscalculating 
while a certain suitor stands in line 
I've seen in movies most made for television 
you cannot be too careful when it comes to sharing your life 
I could end up a miserable wife

4) "What Baking Can Do" by Jessie Mueller


Even this...
Even that...
Even as the walls come tumbling down 
Even as I can't stop remembering how
Every door we ever made we never once walked out


5) "You Matter To Me" by Sara Bareilles (Jessie Mueller in the show) and Drew Gehling



You matter to me
Simple and plain and not much to ask from somebody
You matter to me
I promise you do
You, you matter too
I promise you do
You'll see

6) "She Used to Be Mine" by Jessie Mueller



she's imperfect but she tries 
she is good but she lies 
she is hard on herself 
she is broken and won't ask for help 
she is messy but she's kind 
she is lonely most of the time 
she is all of this mixed up 
and baked in a beautiful pie 
she is gone but she used to be mine

7) "The Negative" by Jessie Mueller, Kimiko Glenn, and Keala Settle



Maybe it'll all be fine
Maybe there'll be just one line
Come on, negative