Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Jenna’s ( Keri Russell) is certainly a deferred
hope, longing to be free from her controlling, abusive husband. As soon as she is paid for waitressing at Joe’s Pie Diner, her husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto) demands that she turn over to him her salary when he picks her up after work. Jenna’s great desire is to enter a national pie contest so that she can afford to leave Earl. Jenna is no ordinary waitress, she is a pie genius, coming up with a new pie recipe to fit whatever mood or situation she is in, such as “I Hate My Husband Pie or “Kick In The Pants” Pie.” When she discovers that she is pregnant, it is not a moment of joy, so she conjures up “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby” Pie.” Her dismay is because she has been secretly saving some of her salary so that she can sneak away to the national pie contest at which she is convinced she will win the $25,000 prize and thus be able to ditch Earl.
Jenna’s two waitress friends at Joe’s Pie Diner Dawn (director Adrienne Shelly ) and Becky (Cheryl Hines) each have their own troubles, but they say more than once that neither of them would trade places with Jenna. The owner, Old Joe (Andy Griffith), comes daily to the diner, making stringent demands upon Jenna, but as we learn later, the old curmudgeon is also the friend she does not know she has.
The film takes adultery a bit too lightly for this reviewer, when Jenna shows up at the clinic with a gift pie and discovers that its newest staff member Dr. Pomater (Nathan Fillion) is to be her gynecologist while her regular female doctor is away. He seems insecure and flustered, but over the weeks, her visits turn into more than professional ones on the day when they find themselves unexpectedly embracing and going beyond. (There is almost a hint of Chocolat when the pies and tarts she brings arouse more than his culinary appetite.) Although she violates her marriage vows, Jenna, not looking forward to becoming a mother—one of her therapeutic concoctions is “Baby Screaming Its Head Off in the Middle of the Night and Ruining My Life pie” —does not even entertain the idea of an abortion. And her final decision in regard to her relationship with her lover turns out to be a satisfying one.
Set in the South, the heart of this film is as warm as one of the pies that we see Jenna taking out of the oven. This South, of course, is more mythic than real, but it is one in which people still must deal with pain and disappointment and struggle hard to see even a portion of their dreams come true. The film’s upbeat conclusion is tempered by the sad knowledge that this is director Adrienne Shelly’s last picture: she was murdered in her office/apartment in Manhattan, the only fortunate thing being that she had finished her work on the film. Despite its flaws, it serves as a fine memorial to her vision and talent.
1) What do you think of Jenna’s method of coping with her miserable condition? How can not only the eating, but the preparation of food be therapeutic? Any danger in this?
2) What are the problems of Jenna’s two friends? What do you think of their way of dealing with them?
3) How does Jenna’s continual submitting to earl’s domination fit the pattern of the victim of abuse? How does she show the importance of having a dream or goal?
4) How did you feel when she and Dr. Pomater threw themselves at each other? How do filmmakers often justify adultery—as here? How did you feel about the way in which Jenna decided matters between her and her lover? How was the moment when she met his wife a “coming to oneself” (See Luke 15:17) moment?
5) What did you think of Andy Griffith’s character Joe? How does he help Jenna see the value in herself? Who has served you in such a way during a “down” moment in your life? How did you feel at the end of this film?