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'Waitress'

Diner queen Jenna (Keri Russell) is a "pie genius" in Adrienne Shelly's comic fable about a woman discovering inner strength, and the camera loves to linger over images of her in the throes of creation: stirring, whipping, pouring, rolling, shaping the pies she improvises each morning. Shelly's script, on the other hand, lingers over her loutish, abusive hubby, over the romantic entanglements of Jenna's waitress friends, and most of all over the married, slightly addled gynecologist (Nathan Fillion) who breaks the news to Jenna that she's pregnant — just before the two of them start an affair. Some of this is amusing, much of it is implausible, most of it is optimistic; all of it is colored by the fact that a few months before the film premiered at Sundance, Shelly, who plays one of the leading lady's best friends in addition to writing and directing, was murdered in her New York City apartment. The film is hardly flawless – even the pie-baking scenes sometimes seem half-baked – but it's hard not to read promise into every frame, and to wonder what Shelly might have cooked up in the future.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.