A young woman facing an unexpected pregnancy ...an abusive husband ...an illicit relationship ...and pie, lots of pie: those are some of the ingredients in the bittersweet comedy written and directed by Adrienne Shelly and starring Keri Russell. Alan Silverman has a look at Waitress.
If only Jenna's life could be that simple. She spends her days as waitress and top pie baker at a homey little southern diner; but she goes home each night to her domineering and brutal husband Earl.
When the pregnancy test reveals that she is, indeed, expecting, Jenna responds the way she does to every life event: with a new pie recipe that reflects her emotions.
Keri Russell stars as Jenna.
"I just loved her," Russell says. "I thought she was so refreshing and funny, sad but tough and refreshing."
Russell says lots of pie was consumed on the set during filming, but she believes Waitress writer/director Adrienne Shelly came up with a tasty insight into some tumultuous emotions.
"I think it's such a clever and beautiful device in the film - and funny - to show the inner thoughts of this character who isn't necessarily able to tell them to people in the movie. It's such a great creative outlet," adds Russell.
Just to add more complication to her life, Jenna's new doctor turns out to be the opposite of her husband: kind, caring and clearly attracted to her. Nathan Fillion plays Dr. Pomatter.
"She is guarded and for her it was very unexpected. For me, I felt it was obvious that this doctor knows what he was doing was inappropriate ...but you still have two characters feeling that same thing," says Fillion.
"They are looking for something that fills a void within them. They're looking for happiness," he adds. "I think the movie becomes about making the right choices. We are all just trying to be happy; it's whether or not you are doing what is right for happiness."
Having a baby is traditionally viewed as a happy thing; but, composing letters to her unborn child, Jenna delves into some mixed emotions about pregnancy which co-star Cheryl Hines believes resonates with many women.
"There are these feelings of being afraid and resentful," she says. "You are mourning the loss of your life as you know it because you know your life is about to change. For me, it was a very complicated situation with complicated emotions and I feel like Adrienne captured that very well."
Adding unintended poignancy to the film is the real-life tragedy that occurred to Adrienne Shelly. She was murdered in her New York office, just days after learning that Waitress had been accepted into the Sundance Film Festival. Keri Russell says what turned out to be her final work was a very personal story for the writer-director.
"That kind of strange, other-worldly, fairytale quality at the end takes on a whole different meaning watching it. It is very surreal seeing that," Russell says.
Adrienne Shelly appears in Waitress as one of Jenna's co-workers at the diner. The cast also features Jeremy Sisto as the foul tempered husband Earl; and screen veteran Andy Griffith plays the curmudgeonly owner of the diner whose only happiness in life comes in helpings of the pies that Jenna dreams up:
In her memory, family and friends established the Adrienne Shelly Foundation which awards scholarships to help women filmmakers.