WAITER Directed by Alex van Warmerdam. 97 minutes. Opens Friday (January 25). Subtitled. Rating: NN
Waiter is a nothing-special Dutch comedy about a 50-year-old waiter whose drab life becomes even more frustrating when he discovers he’s a character in a novel penned by an incompetent writer whose literary efforts are constantly subverted by his meddling wife.
This produces mild effects of both comedy and tragedy, but writer/director/star Alex van Warmerdam has little gift for either. His sense of comedy depends on the naturalistic depiction of life’s ordinary, small annoyances. His tragedy comes from equally ordinary helplessness and life’s randomness.
Scenes follow one another with little concern for narrative through-line, which makes sense in terms of the film’s main conceit but does little for our viewing pleasure. We don’t need to pay first-run prices to get a sense of shapeless ordinary life; we just need to get out of bed in the morning.
The low-key, naturalistic acting and visuals also work with the conceit, but only to enhance the drabness of the experience. The liveliest moments belong to Mark Rietman, as the writer, and Thekla Reuten, as his wife. Their growing domestic disharmony conveys more sense of life than the tale of the morose waiter and his anguished lover.