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Movie Review

Spitfire Grill

Reviewed by: Dale Mason

Better than Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
110 min.

Starring: Alison Elliott, Ellen Burstyn, Marcia Gay Harden, Will Patton / Director: Lee David Zlotoff

Percy Talbot is only 24 years old. A spunky young brunette with a thick southern accent, Percy is a girl with a dream, and a past.

Just released from the prison which has been her home for nearly 8 years she boards a bus and looks to the forested mountains of Maine to hide the painful secret which has plagued her all her life.

Arriving in the small town of Gillead, Percy seeks to make a new start. She gets that opportunity when Hannah Ferguson (Ellen Burstyn) agrees to employ her at her broken down old diner, the Spitfire Grill. But life in this gossip-laden little town of set-in-their-ways old folk proves nerve-wracking, and discouraging. A fall suffered by Hannah seems sure to force the closing of the Spitfire and the firing of Percy. However, her stubborn persistence and the sweet-spirited help of an unlikely friend allow the restaurant to remain afloat while Hannah heals.

Upon learning that Hannah has been trying for years to sell the Spitfire, Percy suggests she attempt a new approach. Run a $100 per entry raffle, and make the Spitfire Grill with its attached house the prize! Percy enlists the eager help of her friends from the Maine Department of Tourism (staffed by fellow inmates) to talk up the raffle to newspapers nationwide. It becomes wildly successful. The sudden flood of cash and letters through the hands of the Gillead postal matron (who is also the #1 village gossip) creates both humor and introspection on the part of the townspeople. But when the cash turns up missing, it is Percy and a mysterious mountainman who are suspected.

This film is brimming with quality; an excellent script, excellent acting, deep/believable characters and an ending that is both sobering and inspiring. There is no nudity or even implied sex, no more than 6 or 7 profanities, and only very minor violence (someone gets slapped, someone else gets a couple of “verbal whippings”). A frank explanation by Percy of the painful secret that led to her imprisonment does make this exceptional film inappropriate for anyone but adults and older teens.

Overall, this independently produced film is an excellent choice with several refreshing Christian overtones.

Year of Release—1996

Viewer Comments
One of the best new movies I’ve seen in years. Full of subtle foreshadowings and excellent acting and cinematography. My wife and I watched it along with our 14 year-old daughter, and were very moved by it. Christian themes and lessons abound, including life from death, personal responsibility, withholding judgment, and showing mercy. It does not gloss over sin or pretend that it has no consequences. But it also shows that sin can take root in people’s lives in different ways: Hannah and Nahum have their own sin patterns that they must face and deal with just as much as Percy does. The movie does have an adult theme, but then I would probably say the same thing about Gone with the Wind. I would recommend it very highly to Christians to view and discuss among themselves and their older teens (and I recommend very few movies made after 1970!).
—Geoff Shell
Excellent film! Don’t miss this one. Full of Biblical themes with a heartwarming message, despite the difficult circumstances Percy had to go through early in life. Causes Christians to see people as God sees them and NOT judge them as we are so often tempted to do.
—T.C., age 24
Thought the movie portrayed quite well how people treat those who have served a prison term.
—Linda Cooper, age 54
I’m not really sure this film is about how people out of prison are treated. It is about grace and forgiveness. The only church in town (Gilead) is boarded up and the closest one with a pastor is over in Bethel (“house of God”). The two women go to the church to find their answers. This is one of the best films I have seen in years. The cinematography is breathtaking. The ending may leave us asking questions but it is certainly for a reason…
—Lee Ferguson, age 43