Jenna (Keri Russell) is a career waitress. She tends tables in a dead-end town in the deep south of the US. Reeling from procrastination and a bad marriage, her only outlet is her knack for innovative recipe composition. For Jenna, every quandary can be answered with a pie-themed homily – ‘I hate my husband pie!’ being amongst the most cathartic. Dealing with an unwanted but apparently non-negotiable pregnancy to her abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto), Jenna falls into a torrid affair with her married obstetrician (Nathan Fillion). All of which drives her to bake pastry goods with confessional titles.
Coverage of Waitress has been predictably dominated by the murder of its director/writer/supporting actress, Adrienne Shelly, who was killed by a 19-year-old Ecuadorian construction worker before the Sundance premiere of her third film as director (after 1997’s Sudden Manhattan and 1999’s I’ll Take You There), and who had reportedly characterised the film as a love letter to her own infant daughter. It is this wholesome intention that comes through loudest in the final cut, regrettably extinguishing any potential for offbeat kooky comedy that the premise may have suggested.
Everything about Waitress is capable: the visuals are nice, the script has its moments, and the performances are as proficient as you might expect (most notably a supporting comic turn by Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines). But played straight, devoid of any discernible sense of irony, the net result is a nauseatingly sentimental rom-com in indie film clothing. With a blurry and frankly depressing message, amounting essentially to childbirth as antidote to a crappy existence, Waitress ultimately fails to deliver on the promises made by its art house credentials, serving up something only barely worth touching. (Lindsay West)
General release from Fri 10 Aug.