Jenna is a southern belle waitress in a small-town diner. Married to a redneck loser, Jenna daydreams of winning a $25,000 ticket-to-freedom in the regional pie contest. As well she might, given her gift for baking out-of-this-world pies that wow her customers. But these ain’t any ‘ole pies, no-siree. Jenna’s creations reflect the frustrations and follies of her own life - like her aptly named “I Hate My Husband” caramel-and-chocolate comfort-pie.
But when Jenna discovers she’s pregnant, motherliness is the last thing on her mind (“I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby” pie). And falling in love with handsome new doctor (“Earl Murders Me Cos I’m Having an Affair” pie) was definitely not on the menu. So what’s a girl to do – except talk with her mates and face up to the fact that pies are no longer the only thing in her oven?
Waitress goes gooey-eyed over its pies. From the very first frame, close ups of tasty pastry glisten and glow. Succumbing to temptation is easy, as Waitress is smartly scripted, winsomely acted and lovingly shot. But eyes can be bigger than stomachs, and the film heads down some routes that might not be to everyone’s appetite.
Keri Russell is believably appealing as Jenna, caught up in a malevolent marriage and longing for a second shot at life. Nathan Fillion (Serenity) is excellent as Dr Pomatter, tempted by more than Jenna’s pies. Cheryl Hines adds a sassy streak as Jenna’s mouthy mate Becky. And writer-director, the late Adrienne Shelly, appears as Dawn, a dowdy, geeky girl who envies both her friends.
An indie-film, shot over 20 days, Waitress is an accomplished movie. Ultimately feel-good and often rib-tickling, it delves into some dark corners. Most bravely, it dares to tackle an oft-unfilmed taboo – a mother who hates the baby inside her (“Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life” pie). The handling of Jenna’s conflicting emotions – leave her husband? have an affair? ditch her baby? – is also deftly done, with an unpredictable edge.
It’s hard to laugh as much as Waitress wants you to, when Dr Pomatter has his own sweet wife who’s unaware of the doctor-patient shenanigans. Infidelity and domestic abuse are unpalatable ingredients that prevent this being an out-and-out crowd-pleaser.
But Waitress is far better than Bridget Jones at dealing with the dilemmas faced by many women. Light-touch and deeply-filled, it has plenty of appeal – bittersweet then, but a touch unsavoury too.