Despite occasional glib and sitcomish moments, “Waitress” is mostly a detectible treat and a very entertaining feel-good comedy-drama. Impregnated by her useless husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto,) strong-minded Jenna (Keri Russell,) who has a gift for making pies, despairs at the presumed damper having a baby will have on her life. With the help of her girlfriends (Cheryl Hines and writer/director Adrienne Shelly, who was senselessly murdered shortly after the film was made,) the local diner’s grumpiest patron Old Joe (Andy Griffith,) and her handsome new doctor Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion,) with whom she begins a feverish affair, Jenna summons up the strength to break free of her oafish and increasingly abusive husband.
Jenna is immature, and that shows throughout, but it’s hard not to like her as she struggles with the troglodyte nightmare that is her husband. The entire cast makes the movie a treat worth savoring, but Jeremy Sisto is the stand-out as the possessive husband. Earl is both a total asshole and pathetically needy, and the conflict is established quickly- Jenna needs to earn money to enter and win a pie-making contest, getting away from Earl for good. Earl just wants his woman at home to bed him and make him steak.
The side characters are a little too ‘small-town Southern eccentric,’ but still very funny and entertaining. Old Joe is mean (more like obstinate,) but he’s not THAT mean, and he imparts one final surprise upon Jenna. Ogie (Eddie Jemison) the ‘stalking elf’ romances Jenna’s coworker Dawn (Shelly) with a vengeance, coming up with impromptu poetry and not taking no for an answer. He might would be creepy if we weren’t laughing so hard at his fervor. All the characters are human, if not always respectful or kind, and although adultery (one of the films’ main plotlines) is wrong, “Waitress” handles the subject gently rather than proselytizes.
I would have liked to get more background on gal pal Becky (Cheryl Hines)’s unfaithful and downright mean treatment towards he brain-damaged husband, which seems sometimes disturbingly downplayed. I’m not a big pie person, but I would jump for one of Jenna’s scrumptious creations, which are featured in fantasy scenes where Jenna plans her confections in her head. One ‘I hate my husband pie,’ coming up.
“Waitress” is a ‘chick flick,’ but one that boyfriends and husbands shouldn’t mind being dragged to this particular flick. It’s sweet, heartwarming, and often very funny, as Jenna comes to terms with her pregnancy and the symptoms and mood swings that come with it, as well as the big what ifs- will she make a good mother? Will this little boy or girl thank her someday for being brought into a world that seems less and less like a fairy tale? Gently moving entertainment.