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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

Waitress, (***, 2007)

AT THE AGE OF FORTY AND WITH HER THIRD FEATURE, Waitress, writer-director Adrienne Shelley, known to some as the pint-sized brain-and-beauty of Hal Hartley’s early movies like The Unbelievable Truth and Trust had found her bumptious voice, a warm-hearted but not-so-soft-headed comedic tone that mixes discomfort with grown-up reassurance. Her characters shelly_124.jpgare so far from perfect, and do things people usually do in the real world but not on screen, but there’s something, well, delicious here. It’s the arrival of an almost fully-formed goofy comic voice, and sadly, the end as well: Shelley died before finding out her film had been taken up by Sundance and then bought by Fox Searchlight for this Mother’s Day release. In a small east coast town, Keri Russell plays a savant of pies at the local diner, someone who can express their every frustration in the form of chocolates and cherries and delicious crust. She’s peeved most of the time by her alarmingly stupid husband, played by Jeremy Sisto as an ignorant, possessive boor, and a pregnancy leads to complications with the new doctor in town (Nathan Fillion). The mix of dark and sweet is Shelley’s very own: I do not believe that someone actually got the line, “Calm down, you psychotic ape!” to function both as cartoon and character—”Sorry, it was a compliment” is another indicator of her tone of dialogue—and when one of the other waitresses dolls up another server played by the writer-director, and she murmurs, “Look what you did. You made me almost pretty,” the heart breaks. Murder and suicide jokes are slightly discomfiting, but a role as a randy local for Andy Griffith, fifty years after A Face In The Crowd, is wonderful. “Once you’re done wiping away your indiscretions, I’ll be in my booth,” he drawls. (Griffith has a gorgeously written, nicely overwrought speech late in the tale.) [Waitress expands on May 18 to 125 locations across the country.]

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