When Adrienne Shelly’s film Waitress opened last spring, it was bittersweet, to say the least. Just months before the film’s release, Ms. Shelly was killed at her office in Tribeca by a workman with whom she’d had a disagreement. It was a senseless and random death for anyone to suffer, but Ms. Shelley’s murder seemed even more ridiculous in light of the unapologetic opitimism of her last movie, which comes out on DVD this week. Waitress, which Ms. Shelly wrote, directed and co-starred in, just might be the most hopeful indie movie ever. And when we say hopeful, we mean it in a sincere and positive way. Isn’t everyone entitled to have their heart warmed now and again and not feel like a chump?
Keri Russell—she of Felicity fame—plays the titular waitress, named Jenna, who has a nasty husband (Six Feet Under’s Jeremy Sisto) and two good friends at the diner where she works (Ms. Shelly and Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines). Her only moments of freedom are found in the kitchen, where she cooks up pies of all kinds of combinations and wacky names (I Hate My Husband Pie/Nut-filled chocolate custard); when she finds out she’s pregnant (unfortunate drunken encounter with husband!) she bakes even more and dreams of running off with her baby after winning a regional pie baking contest which, of course, her jealous husband doesn’t want her going to. And then she starts an affair with her obstetrician (the underrated actor Nathan Fillion, who played the supremely evil Caleb in the last season of Buffy) and generally starts making decisions for herself, to change her life, to make her happy. All the while Ms. Russell is wearing a waitress outfit, with little blue checks and everything. It’s adorable.
If Waitress sounds too sweet for you, think of it this way: this movie is actually about sex, adultery and gluttony. It just took someone like Ms. Shelly to see the bright side of those sinful things.