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Brandon Judell

Waitress: "Alice" in Dinerland


Writer/Director: Adrienne Shelly
Director of Photography: Matthew Irving
Best Boy Electric: Kevin Mucha
Cast: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines,
Adrienne Shelly, Eddie Jamison, Lew Temple, Jeremy Sisto, Sarah Hunley, Andy Griffith

By Brandon Judell

Adrienne Shelley first charmed us back in such Hal Harley offerings as "The Unbelievable Truth" (1989) and "Trust" (1990). She continued to act in films that never really again had the same impact or any impact all (e.g. "Wrestling with Alligators" (1998)). Consequently, she sporadically turned to directing with affable results (e.g. "Suddenly Manhattan" (1997)).

But then in real life, a construction worker who admitted he was "having a bad day" murdered Shelley on November 1, 2006

The possibly unwanted fame that eluded her during her sweet existence was achieved in death, just before her latest effort "Waitress" was successfully screened at Sundance. Shelley was 40 and a wife and a mother, just the proper subject matter for a "Law & Order" episode, and one was made.

As for her finale, "Waitress," if you recall the long-running TV series "Alice," you'll pretty much be revisiting familiar territory. Sadly, though, no one belts out, "Kiss my grits."

With some mild revising, Mel's Diner has become Joe's Diner, and yes, Cal (Lew Temple), the manager, is as irascible as Mel was. Becky (Cheryl Hines) plays the brassy, man-hungry Flo character why the insecure Dawn (Shelley) is the timorous, scatter-brained Vera. Alice herself has been transformed into Jenna (Kerri Russell), a beautiful young woman, who now instead of having a preteen son is pregnant and living with her abusive spouse Earl (Jeremy Sisto).

The plot is quite simple. Will Jenna ditch her husband and run off with her married obstetrician (Nathan Fillion)? Will Dawn find a boyfriend? And will Becky ever reveal her secret that just might have do with having sex?

Between all this action, Jenna bakes elaborate pies to cope with life. There's the "I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie," a concoction boasting scrambled eggs, Brie, and smoked ham. There's the "Fall in Love Chocolate Mousse Pie." And, of course, the "I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong And I Don't Want Earl to Kill Me Vanilla Custard Meringue Pie."

The end result is a slightly feminist, highly enticing fairy tale that is engagingly acted, beautifully shot, and solidly directed.

P.S. Just so we don't forget that this is a paean to TV, Andy Griffith deliciously appears as the crotchety Joe, the diner's owner. His star turn will have you begging for more.

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