Keri Russell in WaitressThis afternoon I caught a public screening of 'Waitress,' which arrives at the festival on the heels of tragedy: Its director, writer and co-star, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered in her New York City apartment last November by a construction worker who got angry when she complained he was making too much noise.

It's bittersweet for the cast and crew of 'Waitress' even to be here, and that makes for a heartwarming story even if that's the only thing the film has going for it. But to add the whipped cream on top of the cherry pie, the movie's good. I mean really good. Keri Russell plays Jenna, a waitress with a gift for making heavenly pies. (She works at Joe's Pie Diner. Of course.) Jenna's married to Earl (Jeremy Sisto), who's controlling and given to jealous rages; desperately unhappy, she's finally begun plotting her escape. But then she discovers she's pregnant, and despite her indifference toward the baby, she starts going to see the handsome new doctor in town, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) -- and the sad, sad waitress and the sweet, neurotic doctor embark upon a halting affair.

Funny, tender, quirky and sad, this is a film blessed with a knockout cast that includes, in addition to Russell, Fillion and Sisto, Shelly herself and Cheryl Hines as Jenna's co-workers, plus the incomparable Andy Griffith as the eponymous Joe. 'Waitress,' with its homespun charms and Southern small-town setting, could have easily gotten overly cute and folksy, and at times it does start to veer in that direction; but Shelly knew the value of subtlety, and therefore the story never gets too corny, and the characters are always believable.