Lowdown: A waiter dealing with his hard life and those writing his life’s story.
Waiter, or Ober the way it’s called in its language of origin, is the third Dutch film we got to see recently; this time it was curtsy of SBS. Made in 2006, it made us feel “at home” with some of its actors familiar from the other Dutch films we’ve watched as well as other European productions such as In Bruges.
Waiter follows the life of a middle aged waiter. His life is getting him nowhere: at work he’s exposed to the taunting of annoying customers; his attention demanding sick wife divides his attention from his middle aged mistress while all the while he is longing for a hot young one instead; and his neighbor is threatening him in more ways than just making apartment rattling noises in the middle of the night and throwing his garbage into our waiter’s apartment. So where does our waiter's life go from here?
Well, it goes into the living room of the couple/writers who are scripting his life for him in a very Stranger than Fiction kind of a way: Our waiter is but a figment of their imagination, the product of their aspirations to write a novel or a script that would put them on the map. And if our waiter has to suffer for their success than so be it; they won’t listen to his complaints too much as they send him back to his miserable world.
On paper, the premises of Waiter sound very promising. As a blogger, I couldn’t help identify with our writers and their urges to write the next big thing as well as their inability to let go of writing whatever it is on their minds, no matter how mediocre the end result turns out to be (and yes, I admit it: I am not the next Shakespeare). Not stopping there, Waiter made me delve into further Tron like philosophical realms: Given that our conscious, what most people refer to as a soul, seems to be the by-product of the neurons in our head interacting (although we’re far from being sure about that), then what is it, exactly, that prevents the document I’m typing into my word processor application from having some consciousness of its own? Perhaps this very post is a conscious entity, too; an entity that can die at my own private whim.
It all sounds very promising, yet Waiter fails to deliver on its promise as it develops by the film’s writing couple into a rather mediocre affair of silly twists conveyed in too surreal an atmosphere. I do not doubt this is intended as a way to portray how the things we regard as our greatest achievement are often only special to ourselves, but this does not mean I need to sit through a film and waste my own time as a result.
Best scene: As our writer falls asleep on his keyboard, our hero waiter gets lost for words. One of the better sophisticated comedy moments in Waiter.
Best scenes in general: In typical European filming fashion, and in contradiction to American film-making, Waiter shows us its heroes sitting at the toilet and having a dump; it also shows brief moments of causal nudity that take place in the lives of all of us normal people. By not hiding these moments from us, Waiter renders itself much more authentic and much less artificial. It’s a pity America is stuck in some weird and no good puritan agenda.
Overall: The idea alone is worth 3 out of 5 stars for the idea but the execution only 2.5; the end result is somewhere in between.