The Spitfire Grill
This debut drama from writer-director Lee David Zlotoff (creator of the TV series MacGyver) won the audience award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. Alison Elliott stars as Percy Talbott, an ex-convict who's come to the small Maine town of Gilead in the hope of finding work and a place to start her life over again. With the help of the local sheriff, she lands a waitress job at the Spitfire Grill, eventually winning over the crusty owner Hannah (Ellen Burstyn) and simple-minded fellow waitress Shelby (Marcia Gay Harden) with her hard work and trustworthiness. Percy even finds a new love with a woodsman, Joe (Kieran Mulroney) and befriends a hermit (John M. Jackson) who lives in the nearby woods and is regularly fed by Hannah. When Hannah falls ill, Percy devises a scheme to help her sell the café in a national contest, but Shelby's husband Nahum (Will Patton) doesn't trust Percy's motives -- and his suspicion leads to tragedy. The Spitfire Grill, which played as a cross between To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), got initial financing from an organization of Roman Catholic priests and sold at Sundance for a then-record $10 million.