'Waiter' serves up a dull flick

JIM SLOTEK - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 5:24 AM ET

The kind of idea you might come up with stoned, or while suffering a horrible bout of writer's block, or both, Waiter is a Dutch film about a scriptwriter whose characters begin to object to the lousy job he's doing.

The premise isn't immediately evident when we meet Edgar (played by writer-director Alex van Warmerdam), a mildly perturbed waiter at what appears to be a respectable three-star restaurant. "Respectable" despite such behind-the-scenes antics as Edgar fumbling of an entrecote steak while carrying on a conversation in a washroom, with a sick colleague kicking the steak back to him from behind the stall (remind me never to order entrecote).

It's when he enters the restaurant, and his customers include his neurotic mistress Victoria (Ariane Schluter) and four brutish guys in business suits who physically assault him, and when he heads home to his miserable, bedridden wife and upstairs thug neighbours, that we get the full picture of Edgar's unbearable life.

Enraged at his fate, he shows up at the door of Herman (Mark Rietman) an irritable hack writer who has no sympathy for the torture he causes as his aimless story proceeds. Herman's girlfriend Suzie (Thekla Reuten) is a little more sympathetic, and actually succeeds in spicing up the story when she takes her surreptitious turn sitting in front of Herman's keyboard. Annoying characters disappear, Edgar gets an exciting and maddeningly mercurial new mistress (Line Van Wambeke) and things start to improve. But then Herman the Hack starts in again, and Edgar's lot goes downhill once more -- starting with the revelation that his new mistress has an unexpected intimate connection to his own life.

Though van Warmerdam lends a quiet dignity to a man forced to be a doormat by forces beyond his control (and Van Wambeke is a sultry addition to the story), the fact is Waiter is a movie tied down by the banality of the fictitious scriptwriter who stirs its drink.

The "writer" also suffers from a lack of commitment internal logic (how does management allow customers to repeatedly assault its staff and even cause property damage?).

For all its entertaining moments (as when Edgar must play host to a Japanese yakuza hitman), Waiter is surprisingly slow for a movie that blurs the lines between reality and fiction -- even despite the tacking on of a violent subplot and a denouement with gunplay.

In the end, it's hard to invest much emotional attachment to characters who can disappear with a keystroke as if they never existed. Waiter is hardly the mindbender it thinks it is, and there is much potential in the premise that goes unfulfilled.

(This film is rated 14-A)


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