The ordinary doesn't really have a place in cinema. After all, this is the summer of blockbusters, where I've already spent several hours in theaters watching people with special-mutant-alien-superhuman-whatever powers move from one massive explosion to the next.
So maybe it's the low-key nature of "Waitress," the last film from the late filmmaker Adrienne Shelly, that makes the film so good. Actually, there's a lot of things that make it work. It's a little film about little people finally making long overdue progress in their dreary lives, and yet the story provides enough heart and humor to make it seem like so much more.
Our protagonist is Jenna (an incredible Keri Russell), a "pie genius" who spends her days at Joe's Pie Diner with fellow waitresses Beck (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Shelly herself) and her nights with a bumbling fool of a husband, Earl (Jeremy Sisto), who's so controlling in the relationship that he's almost pathological. She dreams of winning a pie contest and finally escaping from Earl, but an unexpected pregnancy that she's anything but excited about dampens her plans.
The film then focuses on her struggle with the pregnancy, while continuously introducing new situations to give Jenna the courage she needs and keeping us enthralled as well. Jenna begins a much-needed affair with her comically serene doctor (Nathan Fillion), helps Dawn and Becky out with their own unique romance problems, befriends the diner owner who might just not be the cold-hearted guy he likes to make himself out to be, and invents new ideas for pie recipes to suit her situation (Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie, I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong And I Don't Want Earl To Kill Me Pie, etc.).
Now truthfully, the story of "Waitress" isn't necessarily anything new. But keeping in mind that old saying that every story has already been told, so you might as well tell it -- well, this (unfortunately) final film from Shelly fantastically orchestrates warmth, empathy, wit, pure delight and excellent performances to result in an undeniably wonderful film.
Jason Silverstein is a sophomore at Williamsville North.
3.5 stars (out of 4)