Waitress (2007)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Comedy, Slice of Life  |   Release Date - May 2, 2007 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Perry Seibert

The hero of Waitress works in a diner alongside her harmless but intimidating boss and two friends, one mouthy and the other mousy, making the setup feel like a big-screen version of the TV show Alice (although nothing like that program's cinematic inspiration, Martin Scoresese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore). Director Adrienne Shelley creates a familiar rural American town populated with characters so folksy and charming that the fact Andy Griffith shows up in a small but important supporting role couldn't seem any more appropriate. Shelley darkens this nonthreatening situation right away by allowing our hero, expert pie maker Jenna (Keri Russell), to express her hatred for the baby growing inside her. Although there is no question she is going to have the baby, she wants nothing to do with it after it arrives. Shelley does a fabulous job of allowing the darkest impulses and fears of the characters to color, but never overwhelm them, and she keeps a tone so loving and friendly that the audience never fears for the characters, but simply wishes that they all find some comfort and happiness. Russell is superb as Jenna, playing a variety of emotions from fear to horny to angry to glowing expectant mom, and each phase radiates from Russell's engaging face. Her performance captures the tone, bittersweet without ever lapsing into schmaltz, that the entire film aims for. The supporting cast also walks that same fine emotional line with Eddie Jemison doing a schticky but sweet turn as a man besotted by love, Cheryl Hines playing a character simultaneously selfish and selfless, and Griffith managing to be both prickly and wise. The character of Earl, Jenna's threatening and pitiful husband, showcases everything great about the film. He could easily have become a two-dimensional monster, and while Shelley never flinches from how horrible he is, she allows him to have a humanizing emotional fragility that Jeremy Sisto plays with great skill. Waitress is a warm, crowd-pleasing entertainment that earns its feel-good vibe honestly by never denying the darkness that surrounds, and occasionally engulfs, every character in the film.