Retro Review: White Palace (1990)

***No spoilers***

Another long-forgotten film from the 90s starring Susan Sarandon, this time opposite a young James Spader, with both the leads on superb form. This is a top-notch romantic drama, concerning the unlikely relationship between a rich young man, and a much older underprivileged woman. As I want to avoid spoliers, it will be a short review, but I hope it inspires you to want to watch this film, as there are few of the genre ever done better.

Young (27) executive Max (Spader) collects fifty burgers from a down-market burger joint called White Palace. They are to be taken to a friend’s bachelor party, and going to that party is something new for Max, who has been living a reclusive life since his young wife was killed in a car crash. When he gets back with the burgers, he finds that the order is six short, and determines to return and get a refund, despite being wealthy enough not to concern himself with such a small amount of money. Back at the White Palace, he encounters a feisty waitress, 43 year-old Nora. (Sarandon) After some argument about the order, Max gets a refund, and leaves in a bad mood.

He later meets Nora by chance in a bar, and both are more than a little drunk. Nora flirts with him, and he takes her back to her house in a seedy area of St Louis, where passion ensues. That could well be the end of it, but Max cannot get Nora off his mind, and they eventually begin a relationship, much to the surprise of Max’s friends and family. This throws up many opportunities to explore the problems of a couple who not only come from different backgrounds and have opposite expectations about life, but also have an age difference that makes a normal situation into one fraught with difficulties.

Sarandon has never been better as Nora, and Spader convinces as the confused rich boy, unable to balance his lifestyle with his desires. We also get Kathy Bates, Jason Alexander, and Steven Hill, with convincing performances all round in a grown up story handled with flair, taste, and class.

20 thoughts on “Retro Review: White Palace (1990)

  1. Two very talented performers, I’m very partial to this film and the time it came out but I will have to see it again. Now if I recall there’s another film starring Sarandon that you rate for its sensuality? As the Scottish would say, “She mustavemeadquiteenimpressssson.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The only James Spader film I have on DVD is “Secretary” (2002), an excellent movie in which Maggie Gyllenhaal also stars. I’ve always been of the opinion that E.L. James borrowed a bit from this film for her “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Apart from the some thematic elements, Spader’s name in the film is…Mr. Grey.

    I only have three Susan Sarandom films, and none recent: “Thelma and Louise” (1991) / “The Hunger” (1983) / “The Other Side of Midnight” (1977).

    I’m familiar with the film title, “White Palace,” but I haven’t seen it. It does look interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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