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  Waitress No baby, just pies
Year: 2007
Director: Adrienne Shelly
Stars: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Darby Stanchfield
Genre: Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 1 vote)
Review: “I don’t need no baby. I don’t want no trouble. I just want to make pies. That’s all I wanna do. Make pies.” So says Jenna (Keri Russell), heroine of this warm, sweet natured, hugely uplifting comedy, lovers of obscure and quirky indie comedies would do well to make a must-see. Pie making genius Jenna aspires to enter a $25,000 baking contest as a springboard to a better life, but winds up pregnant by no-good husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto). Not exactly aglow at her impending motherhood - she immediately bakes an “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie” - Jenna waitresses at Joe’s Diner, alongside her endearingly kooky friends, Becky (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly), and plots her escape. Jenna’s handsome, and married, gynaecologist Doctor Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) falls head over heels in love with her, leading to a passionate affair that together with letters written to her unborn child, inspires our heroine’s blossoming self-confidence.

For what would tragically prove to be her final outing as screenwriter and director, actress Adrienne Shelly drew inspiration from her own anxieties about motherhood. Not to mention her love of baking pies. Waitress wove humour, romance, tragedy and triumph into a soulful concoction that - clichés be damned - really was the feel-good movie of 2007. The boldly tackled a subject most mainstream comedies avoid like the plague: a mother who resents her unborn child. Shelly’s screenplay was achingly honest and Keri Russell did it justice with a sparkling, multifaceted performance sadly overlooked come Oscar season. Jenna’s recipes are hilarious (“Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie”, “Earl Murders Me Because I’m Having an Affair Pie”), but away from the many gags (music soars as lovers lock lips, there are snappy one-liners and Shelly herself contributes a scene-stealing supporting turn as the lovably surreal Dawn) she remains endearingly complex (hypocritically berating Becky for having an affair). For Nathan Fillion, star of Joss Whedon's seminal-if-overlooked at the time Firefly, its superb big-screen spin-off Serenity (2005) and latterly charming detective series Castle, this should have been another stepping stone towards big screen super-stardom. As Jenna's likeable love interest he alternates splendidly between goofball charm and vulnerability. Speaking of television stars, it was by no accident that Shelly cast TV icon Andy Griffith as curmudgeonly diner patron Joe. Waitress reflects the big-hearted homespun wisdom of Griffith’s much beloved TV show, only with an incisive contemporary edge.

While a handful of scenes could have benefited from more judicious editing, mostly the movie plays like one of Jenna’s pies, made with loving care, gooey but delicious. Shelly utilizes a glowing, golden-hued cinematography courtesy of D.P. Matthew Irving to convey her vibrant view of life. This was the writer-director-actress’ third feature, following comedy/mystery Sudden Manhattan (1997) and rom-com I’ll Take You There (1999). Hugely acclaimed for her firecracker performances in Hal Hartley’s magnificent Trust (1990) and The Unbelievable Truth (1989), Shelly was a true indie superstar. Her tragic, senseless death robbed her of the chance to see Waitress hit big at the Sundance Film Festival. Knowing it was intended as a love letter to her baby lends the film’s closing shot a heartbreaking poignancy: mother and daughter slowly walking into the sunset. Remember Adrienne Shelly, for her classic performances in the Hartley films and for this warm, humane, labour of love.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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