A waitress at Joe's Pie Diner, Jenna (Keri Russell) is also a pie making genius, naming her tantalizing confections after the events and emotions of her daily life. But Jenna isn't happy in her marriage and when she discovers that she's pregnant to her obnoxious husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), her unhappiness deepens. She shares her troubles with her cheeky fellow waitresses Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (the late Adrienne Shelly), who present her with a baby book - which inspires her to write letters to her unborn baby, discovering a new self confidence. At the same time, a new young doctor comes to town, Dr Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), whose caring attention contrasts with Earl's brutish nature, inviting all sorts of potential for trouble.
Review by Louise Keller:
Impossible relationships are the focus of Waitress, a wonderfully quirky film about pies, lies and happiness. 'Start fresh,' says Andy Griffith's Old Joe, in whose Pie Diner Keri Russell's Jenna works. But starting fresh is not so easy, when you have a violently possessive husband, no money and unexpectedly find yourself pregnant. Writer director Adrienne Shelly has created an unlikely bunch of characters, each with their own problems, and lovingly brought them to life with the utmost care and respect. Their situations might be funny, but at no time do we laugh at them: we care deeply about them all. We ache for their troubles and are lifted by their triumphs in this warmly funny, romantic comedy filled with surprises, when friendship and the unexpected are as mandatory as any ingredient in Jenna's exquisite pies.
To Jenna, there's something magical about baking and she puts her heart into each scrumptious pie she makes. It is her creative outlet, her form of expression, her catharsis and her great joy in life. With recipes descriptive to the point of perfection, it is impossible not to understand the logic behind 'I hate my husband pie,' whose recipe demands bittersweet chocolate be drowned in caramel, or 'Pregnant miserable self-pitying loser pie,' in which lumpy oatmeal with mashed fruitcake is brutally flambéed. This is her escape from her nightmare of a marriage with Jeremy Sisto's obsessively jealous Earl and when she strikes up an unexpected relationship with Nathan Fillion's chaotic Dr Pomatter ('you make me feel calm'), their inappropriate romance is far from sordid, but something quite beautiful and sprinkled with innocence.
It is in Joe's Pie Diner, the focal centre of the small town, that all the action takes place. There, we become involved in all Jenna's relationships, including her two close friends - her waitress colleagues. Cheryl Hines' Becky, whose lopsided breasts are 'something Picasso would have made' is having an extra-marital affair and bespectacled, ditzy Dawn (played by writer director Shelly) finds true love with a nerdy 'spontaneous poet' (Eddie Jemison) whom she meets on a five minute date. And there's Cal (Lew Temple), the grumpy manager who admits to being 'happy enough' and demanding Old Joe, who adores Jenna's pies 'Each flavour opens up, one by one - like chapters in a book.'
Everything works - from the flawless performances to the intricate mood that as swings high and low as a volatile pendulum. There are no easy solutions or manipulated pat endings: this is a vibrant portrait in which the characters recognise their troubles and sing their joys as they partake in a keenly observed, uplifting journey that has no recipe.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
On the surface, Waitress looks like a chick-flick, soaked in the stuff of inter-gender and intra-gender observational matter that bridges comedy and drama; it depends on which side of the trouble you are. But deeper down, the screenplay explores a more universal condition: the essential questions about somehow taking control of your life at a point where it no longer feels very satisfying or pleasant. We can all relate to that, and in many lives, it is one of the most important issues ever to be faced. And one of the toughest to deal with.
So while the film is officially a comedy, it looks into the abyss - which is a good thing, since comedy without a dramatic foundation is merely fatuous, with no meaning. At the heart of the film are the three women: Jenna (Keri Russell), who drives the action, Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (the late Adrienne Shelley) -all of them unlucky in love. The pivotal event that propels change is Jenna's pregnancy - unwanted by her, unintended by her jealous, bigoted, brutish husband. All three women deliver terrific performances, and the pie making device is well used to add levity to the dark patches. Andy Griffith has a delightful cameo as the ageing owner of the diner, a well groomed old fashioned man with some pertinent advice for Jenna: start fresh. We all hope she does, but Jenna is conflicted and guilt ridden, not to mention confused.
While the film sustains its stylised tone well enough, it falls back into tv sitcom mode too often and the darker, deeper issues are allowed to slip away, resolutions are pat and the payoff is uplifting but without drama. It's a likeable film with many terrific moments and some lively dialogue, but ultimately it's more like a cup cake than a serious pie.
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CAST: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple
PRODUCER: Michael Roiff
DIRECTOR: Adrienne Shelly
SCRIPT: Adrienne Shelly
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Matthew Irving
EDITOR: Annette Davey
MUSIC: Andrew Hollander
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ramsey Avery
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 25, 2007
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.