Her husband’s a frightening, chauvinist pig, her boar-faced boss at the diner’s a monosyllabic tyrant and she’s seven weeks overdue – but, boy, can perky, pretty, pinafore-ed, Picayune princess Jenna (Keri Russell) bake a cherry pie! Her pies are the best in the county – even gruff old Joe (Andy Griffith), the owner, says so. But, oh lordy, a baby would shackle her to that beast of a beau and now she’ll never get to realise her life’s ambition: to take part in the annual bake-off in Jonesville. Hasn’t she got enough problems to worry about without the new ones given to her by the unprofessional attentions of her dippy, doe-eyed, new doctor, Pomatter (Nathan Fillion)?
Many readers will have heard of the sad fate of one-time Hal Hartley actress Adrienne Shelly, randomly killed recently. So it’s hard not to ascribe extra pathos to this, the kooky actress’s new indie movie, not least because her funny, gentle, unpatronising, if occasionally naive and quirky portrait of smalltown Southern life is unusual in being sensitive, supportive and more attuned to women’s concerns than is usual in mainstream Hollywood movies, and takes as its central theme the complex, contradictory fears induced by impending motherhood. Shelly obviously felt at home among these ‘ornery Louisiana folk – she herself plays ‘pasty pastry’-skinned Dawn, one of the diner’s trio of talkative table jockeys and brings nice performances from her actors, including an appealing central one for Russell. Be warned, however, she does succumb to repetition and displays some annoying tropes, not least in inviting her cast too often to loom close to the camera’s fish-eye lens. Wally Hammond