This is a delightful film that is told wholly from the perspective of Jenna (Keri Russell), a waitress in a pie dinner in a Southern town who despises her domineering husband and naturally isn’t exactly thrilled when she learns that she is pregnant. Her coworkers (Cheryl Hines and director/screenwriter Adrienne Shelly) are a source of both support and stress as they try to give her the best advice they can. When Jenna launches a passionate affair with her handsome obstetrician (Nathan Fillion), she copes with the emotional turmoil in her life by baking pies, of which she invents a new one every day. The whole film is well shot, but the baking scenes are especially effective for portraying Jenna’s state of mind. Jenna’s oddball relationship with the dinner’s curmudgeonly owner Old Joe (a surprisingly sharp Andy Griffith) recalls the early films of Hal Hartley, where director Shelly got her start. “Oh I love living vicariously through the pain and suffering of others,” Old Joe says in one scene. Yet Waitress comes across as much more alive than any of Hartley’s films.
The tragic death of Adrienne Shelly, who was senselessly murdered in her New York office during post-production, unfortunately casts a pall across her last work, but this well-crafted film shows her at the peak of her talents as a writer and director.