Waitress is a 2007 film starring Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, and Andy Griffith. This was the final work of the late writer, director, and actress Adrienne Shelly. Waitress premiered on January 21 at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. The film began its limited theatrical release in the United States on May 2, 2007.
Jenna (Keri Russell), a poor southern waitress, is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a jealous, controlling, and abusive man named Earl (Jeremy Sisto). Jenna works in Joe's Pie Diner, where it is her job to create the unique pies of the day. Jenna's special pie creations, and her many fantasies about possible pie creations, often reflect the events in her life. Such is the case when she learns of her unexpected pregnancy, and bakes an "I don't want Earl's baby" pie. Jenna longs to run away from her dismal situation, but lacks the financial means and the determination to do so. Her only friends are the two other waitresses at the diner; Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn (Adrienne Shelly).
After Jenna meets Dr. Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion), the town's handsome new gynecologist, her life begins to brighten as they start a passionate affair. In this affair she finds more than lust, and develops a bond with Jim that she akins to him becoming her best friend. Jenna also befriends Joe (Andy Griffith), the curmudgeonly diner owner. The two of them begin to discuss her horrible life, and he urges her to escape and start fresh. Joe eventually becomes ill, and while in the hospital he drops by to visit Jenna as she prepares to give birth. To her surprise, reluctant mother Jenna instantly falls in love with her baby girl, Lulu. When Earl begins to inform Jenna that she better not love the baby more than him, she abruptly gains the strength to tell him that she hasn't loved him in years, and that she will no longer put up with his domineering ways and that she wants a divorce. Later that day Dawn and Becky arrive to take Jenna home, since Earl refused to pay the hospital bills. As Jenna prepares to leave the hospital Dawn and Becky inform her that Joe's surgery hadn't gone well, causing her to remember the card he had left her. The contents of the card turn out to be a whimsical sketch of Jenna drawn by Joe, as well as a check for $200,000. During Jenna's wheelchair departure from the hospital she ends her relationship with Jim, and thus begins her life anew. She ends up winning $25,000 in a pie contest and in the end Jenna buys Joe's old diner with the money he gave her and her prize money, and renames it Lulu's Pie Diner.
The admission of Waitress into the 2007 Sundance Film Festival was bittersweet, because late writer/director Adrienne Shelly was murdered before learning her film had been accepted. The film opened to glowing critical reviews summarizing it as a well-made, good-hearted comedy, brimming with quality star wattage. 2007 marked a profitable year for the films of Sundance, and Waitress was no exception with Fox Searchlight Pictures acquiring the distribution rights at roughly $4 million. The official release was on May 2, 2007.