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The Spitfire Grill
Starring Alison Elliott, Ellen Burstyn,
Marcia Gay Harden, Will Patton and Kieran Mulroney
Directed by Lee David Zlotoff

Cranky is going to approach this one in a roundabout fashion because, on the surface, The Spitfire Grill is a chick flick and Cranky isn't a chick. For those of you who are PC compliant, that's the last time you'll see either phrase or term here, though I'm sure there are as many women out there that would drag their dates to this as men who would drag their dates to [go ahead, fill in the title of your favorite/most hated testosterone-laden flick here]. It isn't a romance, it's more drama than buddy movie. Were a major plot point not telegraphed way in advance, and were the pacing not so snail-ish, I think I would have enjoyed it more. That's not a total negative indication, read on . . .

Since I don't give all the plot twists and turns away, preferring to just set things up so you can (hopefully) enjoy yourself, let me get that done first. Then I'll tell you how The Spitfire Grill both surprised and didn't surprise me.

When we first meet Percy Talbot (Alison Elliott), she is completing a 5-year sentence for manslaughter. Due to her work duties as an operator answering phones for the Maine Tourist Board she has learned of and decided to settle in, the small town of Gilead. "Small" is not a fitting description for Gilead. "Dying" is. It is an incredibly close-knit community, one in which everybody knows everything about everyone, one which looks askance at the drab young woman who begins to wait tables at the Spitfire Grill. Running the Grill is Hannah Ferguson (Ellen Burstyn), a widow whose son died in Vietnam. Hannah is a tough-as-nails old coot, fierce and independent. But her age is catching up with her.

Hannah's nephew, Nahum (Will Patton), is noticeably suspicious when Percy comes up with a way for Hannah to fulfill her wishes and sell the grill, thus financing her retirement. When Hannah injures her hip, it falls to Percy and Nahum's wife, Shelby (Marcia Gay Harden), to run the grill. It is at this point that Percy discovers a mysterious man who lives in the woods, whom Hannah leaves canned goods for.

The Spitfire Grill plays out at its own sweet and very slow pace. The performances by Burstyn and Elliott are terrific, the story is solid, and it is filled with the kind of surprise that only a very highly paid critic would give away. But I'm not and I don't.

Being an average male with the requisite short attention span, as soon as it became "obvious" where the movie was heading, I began to look for other things to keep me from nodding off, which I almost did twice. Cranky is a guy -- guilty as charged.

The woman who was with me was looking for reasons why Percy was behaving, or had behaved, as she did. Perhaps it's because I see too many movies, but I didn't see the explanations coming. Frankly, I was so zoned by the pace of the movie that I was not engrossed enough to care. I thought I had it locked and that was that. But neither of us saw the endgame coming. When it did, it was a big surprise.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Spitfire Grill, he would have paid . . .


Add a buck or two if you're not prone to zoning. This is not the kind of movie that Cranky likes. But it is the kind that my women friends do. The performances are first rate, and the story has some major surprises. But for me, it was slow.

Click to buy films starring Ellyn Burstyn

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