White Palace is a slick and stylish yuppie soap opera which is the type of film that could only have come out of Hollywood in the 1980s/1990s. James Spader is a young, successful advertising executive who hooks-up with Susan Sarandon’s older fast-food waitress. Like Paula Abdul once said, opposites attract – but things get rocky when she becomes annoyed that he won’t introduce her to his yuppie friends. There’s something of Pretty Woman in the rich-poor divide and just like that film, White Place shows that having a big bank balance helps with scoring the chicks.
Based on Glenn Savan’s book White Palace (it’s the name of the fast food joint where Sarandon works), the script by Ted Tally (Silence Of The Lambs) and Alvin Sargent (Ordinary People) has a good mix of comedy of drama. In the 1980s, greed was good and we get to see the contrast between Spader’s pristine existence and Sarandon’s messy MILF. Spader made a career of of playing yuppies and Susan Sarandon can do the Southern Belle sex-bomb thing in her sleep (her role has shades of Bull Durham). It’s pure Hollywood and you know how it’s all gong to end, so there’s little tension. It’s the journey here and director Luis Mandoki stacks the film with a strong supporting cast including Kathy Bates and Jason Alexander.
Cinematographer Lajos Koltai gives the film warmth withs some great autumnal colours (why don’t they shoot movies like this anymore) and George Fenton’s score juggles the comedy and drama well (sax man, sax). Ultimately White Palace is a piece of Hollywood fluff but it works as well presented entertainment. It’s not masterpiece and it’s a little dated but it’s a wonderful snapshot of a yuppie-focused Hollywood.