This is a straightforward and touching film, and a treat for anyone who enjoys watching actors - especially either of these two - playing small scale scenes recognisable from every day life. They play well together and I suspect the way the director enabled them to work had a hand in this. Unusually, the film is set in St. Louis.
The film is often under rated and its central relationship derided as implausible. I believe this is unfair and misses the point of the film.
It's a simple tale of class, differing social milieu and how people's social circles influence the choices we make in life. This couple resolve these issues by moving to another city, but not all of us can so readily choose this option.
Is their relationship implausible? Well aside from the obvious point that Susan Sarandon (Nora,) looks radiant most of the time, and probably never looked better on film, Spader's character (Max,) is not quite as preppy as he appears, and has more in common with Nora than first meets the eye. There is of course, their shared grief, but Max's mother(Edith,) appears in two scenes, and she is, I believe, a key to understanding their relationship.
Edith has a Brooklyn type accent which points to Max having something of a working class background himself, and further, he has ambivalent feelings towards her - for one thing, she is uncomfortable in formal social settings. I think these suggest that Max's attraction to Nora is not nearly as left field as it may appear. Further, I see a facial similarity between the actors, especially around the eyes and mouth, which social psychologists often cite as a predictor of couple attraction.
As to whether the film is any good...? I think it portrays the joys, tensions and compromises of the early stages of a relationship very convincingly. They have a lot of sex, they have rows, they make up, they meet each other's friends, they annoy each other, they work their way through issues. It's not War and Peace, but it does reflect every day life quite consonantly. It has some inspired comic touches - "the sandwich" springs to mind - a solid chemistry between the two stars, and some touching pieces of observation such as when Max tenderly explores Nora's belongings reminiscently of Garbo in Queen Christina.
If you fancy a touching love story, well acted, with stand back and don't get in the way direction, and with gentle undercurrents of social commentary, then The White Palace is worth a shot. If you check the voting for it, you'll see that quite a few people agree with me!
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