October 6, 1996 -- "Spitfire Grill" is an artsy film with a very weak story, barely rescued by very strong acting. It's not great, but it will jerk a tear or two.
The winner of the audience award at the 1996 Sundance Film festival features a marvelous performance by Allison Elliott, who plays Perchance (Percy) Talbot. Talbot is an ex-convict with a tortured soul who tries to find balm in Gilead, a small town in Maine. As the Raven could have told her, that's not likely.
Elliott doesn't have to carry the film on her shoulders, even though it looks like she could have, because there's a solid supporting cast, including Ellen Burstyn (who plays the owner of the grill (Hannah Ferguson), Marcia Gay Harden (Shelby Goddard) and Will Patton who portrays Nahum Goddard, Shelby's wrong-headed husband.
The film works woderfully as a character study. It also uses location photography by Robert Draper to create an uncanny sense of place. But this light character study explodes into a full blown melodrama at the end using a bunch of tired old cliches, like misplaced money, your standard hermit in the woods and an almost laughably melodramatic drowning. Give us a break. With a more imaginative story, this could have been a great movie, but as it is, it's just a C+.
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