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In her dreams

Movies | Waitress seeks escape, Southern Gothic style

Issue: "The 2007 Books Issue," June 30, 2007

From the moment she spies the two pink lines on her EPT, waitress Jenna Hunterston is as willfully determined to keep her baby as she is not to want it. "I respect this baby's right to thrive," she declares, if through clinched teeth.

What is surprising about Waitress (rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, and thematic elements) is the independent film's ability to introduce the cliché-and then upend it.

Jenna (Keri Russell), whose unwanted pregnancy by her lout of an abusive husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) will dash her hopes of entering the $25,000 pie bake-off that is her ticket out, is primed for grim humor and that sort of illicit affair audiences love to hate cheering for. Yet her rescue, in this case a just-in-from-the-North ob-gyn named Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), is a self-described neurotic, who-despite describing Jenna's famous pies as "biblically good"-offers something less than redemption.

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An exceptional Andy Griffith plays the resident Joe of Joe's Pie Diner, less cranky grandpa, it turns out, than sober conscience. The diner is set at the end of a dusty delta lane, but for once the waitresses get their Southern drawls right and don't overdo the gum-chewing sass. Waitress upholds food as redemption but it's less sensual than Like Water for Chocolate, less sensuous than Babette's Feast. Dreams for Jenna are shaped like pies but reality is a sweaty Southern Gothic delivery room and a lusty baby's cry.


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