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"Waitress" is an odd and lovely film that takes clichéd situations and turns them into comedy of a sort - that is, if you think that a wife married to a pathologically controlling husband and getting pregnant one night when he got her drunk, then finding love in the arms of her ob-gyn is funny - and it is, sort of. But this is a film that relies more on the beauty and wonderful acting of its lead, Keri Russell (who played Felicity on TV), to take it out of the ordinary and make her character something with resonance.
As you may know, it was written and directed by Adrienne Shelly, who was murdered last November before she had a chance to see the great reaction the film had at Sundance, nor the box-office success it has now. "Waitress" shows that Shelly was a director who was not afraid to let her people work out their dramas on camera; she lingers on them even after the scene is over, just letting the camera watch as they come to some conclusion.
Keri Russell is Jenna, married to the lout but afraid to leave because he takes all her money and demands unbroken loyalty. She's a waitress at Joe's Pie Shop, and whose talent is making pies; pies with wonderful names, pies that have no parallel in reality but somehow belong to her. Her two waitress friends at the Pie Shop, Cheryl Hines and Shelly herself, are a kind of Greek chorus, but the drama of the film is her affair with her obstetrician, whom she insists on calling Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion in a bizarre haircut that makes him only marginally a better choice than her husband). And then there's the owner of the Pie Shop, Andy Griffith, who comes in every day for another of Jenna's pies. He, of course, will be the deus ex machina that resolves the film, just in case you didn't see it coming.
I don't want to demean the film; it has a sensitive director who knows how to let her actors be, and a brilliant lead, who could probably make me eat even the very strange bright-green pie of God-only knows what ingredients - and I don't want to know what they are - along with some that are only marginally more attractive. But I'm not complaining. "Waitress" is a sensitive film from someone whose talent we'll never have another chance to see.
5/25/07 <! new pasted review ends on line above>