Plot:Percy Talbot (Alison Elliott) newly released from prison, moves to the small town of Gilead, Maine, where she takes a job helping the aging owner (Ellen Burstyn) of the quaint Spitfire Grill. The small, close-knit community quickly learns of her past; a knowledge that forms a barrier against the opportunity to really know her.Through Percys' unflinching honesty and abiding compassion, that barrier is broken and the community of Gilead learns how to let others in.
The Spitfire Grill, winner of the 1996 Audience Award at the Sundance film festival, illustrates why I won't allow film critics to influence my decision on whether or not to see any one particular movie. For example, of the Spitfire Grill, Roger Ebert wrote, "The Spitfire Grill'' won the audience award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, which says less for the audience than for the movie." I'll be the first to fight for anyone's right to an opinion (even movie critics). The problem with Eberts' "opinion" here is that it is an edict in disguise, most likely transformed from the garden variety opinion as a result of excessive ego stroking. No matter how well versed he might be in the distinctions of film, for any one man to discredit the opinions held within an entire audience would require a level of pomposity usually reserved for royalty and politicians. Mr. Ebert went on to say of the movie, that it was an "unabashedly manipulative, melodramatic tearjerker" with "overworn feminist strands" woven into its quilt. In his opinion, the movie was "unbelievable and preposterous." In my opinion, the movie was about the human condition where anything is possible. I "allowed" the movie to take me somewhere; no manipulation was involved. Perhaps Mr. Ebert couldn't get there because he was carrying too much baggage packed with cynicism and bias. I might acquiesce to Mr. Eberts' observation regarding believability when in the movie a housebound old man is finally prompted to walk outside after reading a few letters, but this was after all a movie, not a documentary, wherein that particular five second scene was more symbolic in nature.It's important to have a grip on reality, just not so tight as to keep you from seeing the possibilities beyond it... or from enjoying all the good things that a movie has to offer.
What did this movie have to offer? Perhaps the message that may have been best spoken by the character Nahum Goddard (Will Patton) when he says, "I never met Percy Talbot, but I thought I knew her." The message of freeing yourself from bias for the privilage of truly knowing another was as softly spoken throughout this movie as was the breeze that rushed the thick growth of Gilead Poplars. And speaking of the Poplars, The Spitfire Grill contained some beautiful scenes of mountainous vistas generous with them, although the movie was not shot in Gilead, Maine. The movie was actually shot in Vermont, but did give a very close impression of the region it was meant to represent. To see some actual photos of Gilead, you may follow the link at the bottom of this page. Along with the sobering message and scenic beauty, was the gift of composer James Horners' orchestration. Just as Mr. Horner was able to do so well in the movie "Glory," Horners' music in Spitfire brings the audience and the movie to a level of intimacy that makes the experience complete. The Spitfire Grill was food for the soul, and I doubt I will tire of the leftovers.