There's a shadow over Waitress -- the November 2006 murder of writer-director Adrienne Shelly, which came after production and the film was submitted to Sundance, but before Shelly could be informed of the film's acceptance at the Festival. And that's a tragedy because of the loss of a human life and a talented actress and a bold talent. You'd think it'd be tricky reviewing Waitress -- no one wants to speak ill of the dead -- but the good news is that endorsing and recommending Waitress is easy as, uh, pie. Viewed in the context of no context, Waitress is a light, breezy romantic comedy with a crackerjack cast and a certain degree of faux-Southern charm that never descends to cornpone mawkisness, and also has a whip-smart comedic sensibility in every scene.
Waitress opens with slow-mo shots of food, glorious food -- pudding pouring slow as a lover's caress into a pie crust, apple slices tumbling into cinnamon-sugar with exaggerated glistening glory, scatterings of crumb crust falling like stars. Jenna (Keri Russell) is a pie master, a diva of desserts and a sultan of savories; it's her avocation, and also speaks to her inner moods: thinking about her upcoming challenges, she's planning some new creations -- "I Hate my Husband Pie; I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie." Earl (Jeremy Sisto) is Jenna's husband - a dim, controlling jerk. Jenna finds solace in pie and the support of her co-workers Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Shelly). She also finds that her new physician advising her on all matters pre-natal, Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) is sweet, cute, kind and handsome -- oh, and married. Which doesn't prevent her from kissing him. Repeatedly.