Review: White Palace

Blu-ray: White Palace (1990)

Max Baron (James Spader) is a 27 year old business man attempting to ‘get over’ the tragic death of his wife. Nora Baker (Susan Sarandon) is a ‘rough around the edges’ hard drinking, untidy 44 year old waitress who ends up being the object of his lust.

White Palace is a rather odd film; it’s basically about ageism and snobbery and definitely smacks of the 80’s, it’s almost like a sex fuelled film by John Hughes for grown ups.

Posh, haughty, entitled, dickhead Max wanders around his perfect flat sighing a lot over the demise of his perfect wife. By chance during one of his hissy fits he meets ‘salt of the earth’ slutty, older waitress Nora. Later, he walks into a bar she’s getting sloshed in. It’s during this scene you realise that this actually, despite its ‘soap-opera’ feel, does ring true and is perfectly cast. James Spader, so angelically beautiful as a young man, plays Max perfectly. Enititled, rich, directionless. He’s never had money problems and probably doesn’t feel bereft but rather feels he ought to act a certain way, which involves him being cold and aloof. He’s sniffy, and when he bumps into Nora in a bar she ruins his mopiness by talking to him. She’s drunk, he hates her. She wangles a ride home and makes him drink more booze, she obviously wants to fuck him, he knows it and wants to escape, but doesn’t.

The sex scenes in this are quite raw, and although Sarandon’s deep throated cries of orgasmic pleasure did make me laugh out loud (“ooh arghhhhOoooHHHHh”), the way she performs oral sex on a man who doesn’t want it, then wants it, but not off her, but ooops its too late to stop now.. was nothing short of masterful.

Sarandon’s house is as messy as her life, and as they become a secret item, he attempts to clean up her act, while also hiding her away, culminating in a fantastically awkward Jewish Thanksgiving Party thrown by his friends.

The course of love, like all Hollywood films, does not run smooth, and in real life this wouldn’t have the happy Hollywood ending afforded to Max and Nora. However, this is the perfect ending for this film, their equal redemption.

A very enjoyable, if not raw film, with two great central performances from Sarandon and Spader.

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Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.