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Waitress is the story of one woman trapped in a life from which she dreams of escape. Jenna's (Russell) secret ambition is to save enough money from her waitressing job to leave her overbearing and controlling husband (Sisto). Jenna is a sharp, sassy woman with a gift for making unusual pies whose recipes are inspired by the trials, tribulations and circumstances of her life. An unwanted pregnancy changes the course of events giving her an unexpected confidence via letters to her unborn baby.
Much like the films of Hal Hartley, Waitress is funny in a deadpan sort of way, but a sadness lurks below the surface. After making a splash in Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth and Trust, Adrienne Shelly turned to directing with Sudden Manhattan and I'll Take You There. Set in a small Southern town, her third picture revolves around waitress Jenna (Felicity's radiant Keri Russell), who works at Joe's Pie Diner (Joe is played by Andy Griffith). Jenna is the pastry genius who makes Joe's joint shine. Her co-workers include the forthright Becky (Cheryl Hines, Curb Your Enthusiasm) and insecure Dawn (Shelly). All three have man trouble, but Jenna has it the worst. Her husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto, Six Feet Under), treats her like a piece of property. When she finds out she's pregnant, Jenna fears she'll be stuck with him forever. Then, she develops a crush on her married obstetrician, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion, Serenity). With the aid of her fanciful confections, like peachy keen tarts, their flirtation develops into a full-blown affair. It appears to be a no-win situation, but Shelly finds an empowering way to bring this bittersweet story to a close. If the candy-colored conclusion plays more like fantasy than reality, it's a fantasy worth embracing. Sadly, Shelly was murdered before Waitress ever saw the light of day (leaving behind a husband and child of her own). Fortunately, her final film is far more life-affirming than morose, although it does end with the word "goodbye." --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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