"Waitress" is a sweet movie that has nothing to do with murder, except that its brilliant writer/director/co-star Adrienne Shelly was brutally beaten to death shortly before her film opened at Sundance last fall.
The crime, which was a committed after an argument with a noisy construction worker in her NYC apartment, casts a long shadow on her great achievement, the precursor to a blossoming filmmaking career.
To add to the tragedy, Shelly and her husband have 3-year-old daughter. During her pregnancy, she wrote the screenplay as a letter to her unborn child. That concept plays prominently in the film, where gestating waitress Jenna (Oscar-worthy Keri Russell) speaks in voiceover to her developing fetus.
Jenna is not too happy to be a future mother, particularly because her redneck husband, Earl ((Jeremy Sisto), stands beside the most abusive males in movie history ("Slingblade" and "Thelma and Louise" included).
The star of the Carolina diner where she works, Jenna has one salvation: She makes wonderful pies. The confections connect to her mostly miserable life, with such names as "I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie" (made of scrambled eggs and smoked ham). Then, after she begins a euphoric tryst with her sexy gynecologist Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), she makes "I Can't Have No Affair Because I Don't Want Earl to Kill Me Pie" (custard meringue, hold the banana).
Having a witty way with dialogue and precise directorial timing, Shelly has more fun with the intrigues in an eatery than did TV's "Alice." In fact, "Waitress" would make a fine sitcom, although that's not to belittle it and its skillful multi-layered execution.
Part of the fun (a big part) are the supporting roles by none-other-than Andy Griffith as Old Joe, the curmudgeon diner owner with a soft center; saucy waitress Becky (Cheryl Hines), buoyed by her surprise affair with workaholic boss Cal (Lew Temple); and Shelly herself, playing the mousiest co-worker, Dawn, who finds true love in a geeky auditor/poet.
Run to see "Waitress" and don't let murder get in the way of a testimonial to true talent.