“Waitress,” review by Susan Granger

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When does a comedy become a tragedy? When its talented writer/director, Adrienne Shelly, is brutally murdered in her Manhattan apartment three months before it opens at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

At Joe’s Pie Shop in a small Southern town, Jenna (Keri Russell) is recognized as a “pie genius,” having inherited her late mother’s gift for concocting inventively delicious bakery goods like “I Hate My Husband Pie” (unsweetened bittersweet chocolate made into a pudding, drowned in caramel), “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby Pie” (egg and brie quiche with a smoked ham center), “Kick in the Pants Pie” (cinnamon spice custard) and “Pregnant Miserable Self-Pitying Loser Pie” (lumpy oatmeal with mashed fruitcake – flambé), among others. Yeah, this could be considered one of those “foodie movies.”

While cantankerous Old Joe (Andy Griffith) appreciates her, Jenna’s controlled by her despicably abusive husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), who not only takes her money and gets her pregnant but makes her promise that she won’t pay more attention to their baby than to him. Under the care of a compassionate obstetrician (Nathan Fillion), newly arrived from Connecticut, she discovers mutual affection – which she confides to her folksy fellow waitresses – wise-cracking Becky (Cheryl Hines) and mousy Dawn (Adrienne Shelly) – who have their own mini-dramas.

Adrienne Shelly was an independent film actress (“Trust,” “The Unbelievable Truth”) who began writing and directing movies in the late 1990s. She was killed on Nov., 1, 2006, while working on “Waitress” post-production. It’s a tribute to her, radiant Keri Russell – as the “queen of kindness and goodness” – and cinematographer Matthew Irving that this flaky, candy-colored fable of infidelity, empowerment and re-invention is so mouth-watering. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Waitress” is a tasty, if bittersweet 8. It’s truly scrumptious!

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.