Keri Russell sheds her Felicity image in the sweet dramedy Waitress

Starring Keri Russell
Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelley
Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures
108 minutes

It’s an unfortunate fact of Hollywood that many actors who shine on television go onto crash and burn on the big screen.   Audiences are just too used to them as that one specific character and the actor ends up falling into obscurity.   I was worried for awhile that this would be the case for Keri Russell, the lead of one of my all time favourite shows when I was in high school, Felicity (1998-2002), but thankfully it seems that all hope is not lost.

Waitress is the story of Jenna Hunterson (Russell), a poor woman living in the south who dreams of one day running away from her abusive husband Earl (the great Jeremy Sisto, who has a particular gift for playing extremely fucked up individuals).   Jenna’s only solace in the world is baking pies, a love which she inherited from her mother. Any time Jenna’s life starts to get too stressful she starts fantasizing about new types of pie and giving them telling names like “I hate my husband pie” or “I can’t have no affair ‘cause it’s wrong and I don’t want Earl to kill me pie.”

Jenna’s plan of leaving Earl hits a major road bump when she discovers she’s pregnant.   The tiny amount of money she’s been able to hide from Earl may have allowed her to escape, but there’s no way there’d be enough for two.

Jenna seeks solace in her two best friends who also work at the pie shop Becky (Curb your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines, who fits the role of a perky southerner perfectly) and Dawn (the writer/director of the film Adrienne Shelley).   The two pals combined with a cameo from legend Andy Griffith as the owner of the pie shop add the much needed balance of comedy to Jenna’s miserable existence.

Although she’s pretty depressed throughout most of the film, Russell counters Jenna’s hard outer shell with an incredible generosity and sweetness.   Because of that, the film never comes across as a downer and her personal triumph at the end of the film becomes that much more deserved.

While I wouldn’t classify this film as a “chick-flick,” I would definitely recommend it to any woman looking for a little empowerment after one of those days.

*On a side note, make sure you all go out to see Serious Moonlight (2009) when it opens this weekend.   After Adrienne’s tragic murder in 2006, this’ll be your last chance to see a film written by Shelley.   It was directed by Waitress co-star Cheryl Hines.

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