DVD Tuesday: Babies and pie and Keri Russell as a Waitress with a heart of gold and a razor-sharp tongue

I don't generally make it my business to recommend movies I merely like rather than love, but there's something so sweet and slyly spirited about Waitress that I find myself making an exception.

Small-town waitress Jenna ( Keri Russell) works at Joe's Pie Diner, which is where a sweetie-pie like her was bound to wind up. She's kind to persnickety Old Joe (Andy Griffith), the nightmare patron the other girls do their best to avoid, she bucks up mousey Dawn (writer-director Adrienne Shelly), cracks jokes with Becky ( Cheryl Hines, of TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm) and handles cranky boss Cal (Lew Temple) with no-nonsense aplomb.

Jenna isn't a pushover - she's got a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. She's just fundamentally decent and looks for the decency in others. And she can bake a cherry pie or a spaghetti pie or any other pie you could name and many you couldn't. She's given to baking confections whose names tell you just what she's thinking.

Jenna is also married to controlling loser Earl (Jeremy Sisto), and her plan to escape her unhappy marriage - she's been secretly saving money to enter a pie bake-off - is thwarted when she gets pregnant. Her first move is to bake an "I Don't Want Earl's Baby Pie."

With half a dozen subplots flying around, including three unlikely romances (one between Jenna and her OB/GYN, played by Nathan Fillion) - the plot still matters less than the characters, and Russell's Jenna is a keeper.

I think Waitress was overpraised when it opened, because Adrienne Shelly was murdered shortly before its first screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. It was hard - maybe impossible - to see Waitress without wanting to pay respects to the charming actress and promising director who gave the film its air of bittersweet optimism. I may have been a little harder on it for the same reason, trying not to let sentiment cloud my judgment.

But all these months later, I remember so many sweetly offbeat moments, so many sharp little insights, so many odd little character bits that make Jenna - and to a lesser degree, Dawn and Becky - seem like more than cute comedy characters that I want to give Waitress its due.

Things to consider:

What movies do you just plain like - you don't love them, you know they're not great, but there's something about them you just can't resist?

Is there a movie you can't separate from events connected with it? Many Hollywood analysts, for example, think that Tom Cruise's nutty behavior hurt the most recent entry in the apparently unstoppable Mission: Impossible franchise.


Send your movie questions to FlickChick.

Hear Maitland on the weekly podcast TV Guide Talk.

See Maitland McDonagh and Ken Fox review this week's new flicks on the Movie Talk vodcast.

Previously in DVD Tuesday:

Laura
Cop
All About Eve
Severance
Sweet Smell of Success
Daughters of Darkness
The Crazies
Blade Runner
Zodiac
Manhunter
A Simple Plan
Taxi Driver
Renaissance
Blowup
Hot Fuzz
300
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Apocalypto
Citizen Kane
La Jetée
Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)
Bob le Flambeur
Near Dark
Perfect Blue
Pan's Labyrinth
Les Girls
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
The Queen
Expresso Bongo
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Re-Animator
Casino Royale
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The Prestige
13 Tzameti
The Departed
Suspiria
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Descent
The Devil Wears Prada
Pandora's Box
The Thief and the Cobbler
Nashville
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
Scarface
Slither
Sunset Blvd.
In Cold Blood
Brick