Tuesday, February 3, 2009


"Waitress" (Adrienne Shelly, 2007) A little slip of a film that bears an unfair burden because it must now stand as the entire oevre of actress-turned-writer/director Adrienne Shelly. Had it been followed by others, it would have been seen as a good first step. Now it's all there is, as well as being shadowed by the tragedy that haunts it. People expect it to be too good.

What it is is entertaining—funny, quirky, self-assured—with a terrific performance by
Keri Russell (which Shelly had written for herself, and wisely took a more subdued though joyful, lesser part). If it hadn't been Russell, who communicates intelligence and spunk, her character would have seemed more a victim, rather than a woman stuck in bad options, biding her time, literally a wait-ress. Jenna Hunterson waits tables to pull her weight in an abusive marriage, finds herself suddenly pregnant and ambivalent about it, and uses it as a good excuse to jump the bones of her new obstetrician (Nathan Fillion, not quite as good as he can be). But he's just another trap, a diversion, a dead-end. Her other means of therapy is making pies—usually indicative of her mood and what's bothering her. She doesn't need a shrink if she just had some remedial pie-analysis.

It would be more fun, if her situation with her loathsome husband (
Jeremy Sisto)wasn't so dire. Fortunately the rest of the cast is a bit more pleasant with stand-out work by Cheryl Hines as another waitress-pal, and the still-sharp Andy Griffith as one of Jenna's regular, more cynical customers. The story ends with a fine sense of what-could-and-should-be. If only the story behind the screen had turned out that well.

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