Care Of The Spitfire Grill

on August 23, 1996 by S.L.
Screened at the Sundance Film Festival in Competition. Won the Audience Award.
The feel-good hit of the festival, this film also won the biggest Sundance sale ever--to Castle Rock for $10 million--and sparked one of the many controversies that arose this year over the "under-the-table deal making" that goes on before, during and after the screenings each year.
Alison Elliott brings a steely edge, kind face and soft Southern drawl to the winsome role of Percy Talbott, a young woman recently paroled from jail (for manslaughter) and looking for someplace beautiful to start fresh. She chooses a small town in upstate Maine and soon finds a safe harbor in the local cafe where her hard work and silent way win over the tough old owner, Hannah (Ellen Burstyn). With the help of shy, nervous Shelby (Marcia Gay Harden), Percy devises a plan to raffle off the cafe to help Hannah out. Percy's dark past leads some to eye her with suspicion, but her unique way breathes life back into the small, dying town.
This "Fried Green Tomatos at the Spitfire Grill" truly aches with old-fashioned sincerity and the delicate grace of a longing heart. The simple story, about the pure desires of beauty, love and redemption, is delicately told in an almost hand-crafted manner by writer-director Lee David Zlotoff. The Maine backdrop is magnificent, the town and its people beguiling. The three women give strong, seamless performances that override a slightly disturbing thematic undercurrent about women only being truly fufilled when mothering.
Though familiar and even unrealistic, "spitfire" tugs all the right heartstrings at all the right times and balances its sorrow with the bubbly joy of really good and nice people in an almost perfect world. The tears that fall are tears of nostalgia for a time that isn't and a place that doesn't exist except in the movies. Starring Alison Elliott, Ellen Burstyn and Marcia Gay Harden. Written and directed by Lee David Zlotoff. Produced by Forrest Murray. A Columbia release. Running time: 117 min
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