PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Waitress (2007)

Waitress celebrates all sorts of sincere and sometimes silly love -- friendship, romance, parental, and, no doubt, the love of pie.


Director: Adrienne Shelly
Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Shelly, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith
Distributor: Fox
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
First date: 2007
US Release Date: 2007-05-02 (Limited release)

Earl has to die. Or maybe not. The Earl (Jeremy Sisto) who lives inside Waitress, a universe untouched by the wondrous Dixie Chicks, is as stupid, cruel and crabby as the other Earl. But he is surrounded by shiny brightness -- bright pastels, bright smiles, bright whisps of dialogue that don't say so much as they insinuate. This Earl might survive. When he nuzzles up to his beautiful wife Jenna (Keri Russell), she grimaces and endures it. When he insists that the baby she's carrying never take his place in her affection, she agrees. And when he says he wants her to make him his favorite pie for dinner, she heads to the kitchen.

That's not to say that Jenna doesn't come up with her own means of resistance. A piemaker extraordinaire, she invents new recipes in her head, the movie helpfully illustrating so you might salivate over the chocolate and cream and cheese and luscious fruit piled into perfect crusts. She names her acutely and emotionally -- I Hate My Husband Pie and the Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life Pie -- each indicating a moment of crisis, most all of which Jenna endures with the sort of patience and purity attributed to longsuffering women in country-western songs.

Like her lyrical counterparts, Jenna has some edge as well. She's not entirely thrilled when she and her fellow waitresses, Dawn (director Adrienne Shelly) and Becky (Cheryl Hines), discover she's pregnant. Growling that it must be the result of her unfortunate drunken evening with Earl some weeks back, Jenna trots off dutifully to see the doctor who birthed her, replaced, at least temporarily, by Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion). As soon as he opens his mouth to congratulate her, she stops him dead. "I seem to be pregnant," she sighs. "It's not a party, though." Desperate for a ray of sunshine in her increasingly dreary, if brightly colored, life, Jenna is drawn to the good (and married) doctor, movie-star handsome and instantly devoted to her. She's suspicious of "That nice guy talking thing you do," she says, but falls into his arms anyway.

Jenna's not crazy about her own choices, as she is, in theory, quite against adultery. And her struggle is incessant. When she learns a friend is similarly distracted by a married man, she's quick to condemn, then just as quick to forgive and rethink. Though she first sees the baby as "an alien and a parasite," she soon gives over to the movie's primary non-pie device for expressing Jenna's conflict -- a series of letters to that very baby, lamenting her lack of options, her desire to do right, and her complete frustration over her commitment to Earl. He's as surly and needy and hateful as he needs to be, begging her not to leave him one moment, then hitting her another. No wonder Dr. Pomatter looks good, less for the sex than for the fact that he's her first "best friend."

L-R: Keri Russell and Andy Griffith

Thank goodness Jenna has yet another confidant and mentor, the cranky owner of the diner where she works, Old Joe (Andy Griffith), who lights up this already vivid film every time he pops in for a slice of pie. He notes her post-secret-clinch smudgy lipstick, appreciates her deliciousness, urges her to get free of Earl, and suggests that maybe the baby will be a good thing, after all. Joe's wisdom is unsurprising, but welcome too, especially as he's the single character in sight who seems fine where he is, not frantic to find someone else on whom to project his desires.

Joe's one of many broad gestures in Waitress, which arrives in theaters bearing a particular burden, the murder last year of director/longtime indie actor Shelly. Zingy if obvious, the movie loves its quirky details, the doctor's amusing stop-motion line delivery, Jenna's relentless radiance, even Dawn's own blossoming from pink-faced best friend to blushing bride, when she meets the indefatigable "stalker elf" Ogie (Eddie Jemison), whose "spontaneous poems" make evident his undying love.

The movie celebrates all sorts of sincere and sometimes silly love -- friendship, romance, parental, and, no doubt, the love of pie (Dr. Pomatter is at least in part smitten with Jenna's baking talents: "That pie," he opines on an early marshmallow number, "was biblically good"). While Waitress does show limits (Earl's obsessive and possessive love needs rejecting, even if he doesn’t realize it), its outlook is, in the end as throughout, rather giddily bright.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.