Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Darby Stanchfield, Heidi Sulzman, Lauri Johnson, Sarah Hunley, Cindy Drummond, Nathan Dean, Caroline Fogarty
Written by: Adrienne Shelly
Directed by: Adrienne Shelly
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and thematic elements
Running Time: 107
Date: 01/21/2007

Waitress (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pie in the Sky

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The quirkily beautiful actress Adrienne Shelly, with her oversized eyes and lips, made a striking debut in Hal Hartley's early films The Unbelievable Truth (1990) and Trust (1991) and quickly established herself as someone too intelligent and singular to become yet another Hollywood bubblehead blonde. She turned writer/director with a series of shorts and features that were, to put it politely, distributor-challenged. With the new film Waitress, she at last found a way to stay true to her personality and wit while making a hugely entertaining film.

Keri Russell stars as Jenna, a pie shop waitress who loves to invent new pies based on her own moods. Her best friends are her co-workers, Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Shelly), both with their own odd relationship troubles. Andy Griffith co-stars in a wonderfully cranky role as the pie shop's owner and star patron.

Jenna has just discovered that she's pregnant, but hates her horrible, jealous, suspicious husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto). She visits the sweet, nervous Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), newly arrived in town, and they become instantly attracted to one another. Jenna's complicated emotional ride results in a series of amazing pies, shot in loving overhead close-ups. Using a style that faintly echoes Hartley's, Shelly beautifully balances deadpan humor, pathos and heartbreakingly lovely moments of happy truth.

But there's more: Shelly was horribly and inexplicably murdered in November of 2006, and so Waitress also serves as her goodbye note to the world. While it's little consolation to her friends and loved ones, at least we can hope that, like Jenna, she had ultimately found a kind of happiness. Or, perhaps like the pie shop manager Cal (Lew Temple) says: happy enough.

Fox's DVD release comes with a commentary track by Keri Russell and producer Michael Roiff, as well as a ten-minute "making of" featurette, a six-minute tribute to the late writer/director Shelly, as well as other short bonuses. Russell also provides information on the Adrienne Shelly Foundation.

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