The title character of Adrienne Shelly's modest, wonderful Waitress is the unhappily married Jenna (Keri Russell), a working woman with a baby on the way and a genius for making pies. The movie is an inspired comedy-drama about artistic temperament. We usually reserve that phrase for writers, painters or visionary thinkers. But Jenna sees the structure of her baked goods whole, the way Einstein would envision his theories or Picasso his paintings. And Shelly sees Jenna as a small-town Southern gal who uses her sensibility to transcend her circumstances.
She lacks the wherewithal or the animal strength and willpower to get out of town, but she stays true to herself - even when she doesn't place a high enough value on herself. And Russell's performance has more than charm: It has aesthetic character. When Jenna declares, "I don't need no baby. I don't want no trouble. I just want to make pies," Russell helps turn it into a statement of principle and creativity. She fills out the filmmaker's conception of a woman who can make surliness seductive. She welds tenderness and fierceness with quiet heat.
Waitress (Fox Searchlight) Starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jemison, Lew Temple, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith. Directed by Adrienne Shelly. Rated PG-13. Time 104 minutes.