'White Palace' is romantic comedy with raw language and steamy sex


October 26, 1990

WE'RE INTO another cycle, a small but good one, the romantic film. It may have begun with ''When Harry Met Sally.'' It continued with ''Pretty Woman'' and ''Ghost.''

It is certainly continuing with ''White Palace,'' and if the cycle continues to produce titles as good as this one, let it move along.

''White Palace'' plays like a '30s romantic comedy, save for the language and the sex. The '30s movies were never this obvious, never this frank, but then a lot of comedy has passed under that bridge.

''White Palace'' is the '90s version of ''Kitty Foyle,'' ''Alice Adams'' or any of those movies in which rich boy meets poor girl.

Susan Sarandon is the poor girl in the new film, and while at heart she is Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck and Jean Arthur, verbally and physically she is Today.

When Wealthy Boy (played by James Spader) meets her, she is a waitress in a hamburger palace, and she has a past, a husband and a child who had died at the age of 14, from leukemia, she says.

The young man is 27, widowed and still mourning the loss of his wife.

The waitress brings him back to the basics, sex, and when they first go at it, the screen is as hot as it is going to get and still win an R rating.

These two handle sex very easily. They may come from different strata, but in bed they are completely compatible, despite their ages. She is 43, she says, very nearly 44. She knows that socially, she is not likely to be accepted by his family, for that and other reasons. He is Jewish, for instance. She is not.

''They're interesting people,'' she says. Later, she says she hopes that the boy and his family won't sit around talking Jewish.

Clearly, the girl has not been around in these circles.

The boy, Max, is ashamed of her. He won't take her home to meet the family, and when he runs into a friend, he avoids association with the waitress, who puts up with this for a time then tells the boy to get lost.

The dialogue, written by Ted Tally and Alvin Sargeant, is street smart and parlor smart and, as delivered by Spader and Sarandon, is worth hearing. These are two exceptionally good performances.

Some people will be put off by the language in the film. The sex, too, but sex plays an important part in the movie. It is, you might say, the overriding theme of the film. It's what ties these two people together. It is also what ties the film together.

''White Palace'' opens here today. Jason Alexander, Kathy Bates, Eileen Brennan, Steven Hill and Renee Taylor are seen in supporting roles, Taylor as Max's mother.

''White Palace''

*** Rich boy falls in love with poor, foul-mouthed girl.

CAST: Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Jason Alexander, Eileen Brennan, Steven Hill, Renee Taylor

DIRECTOR: Luis Mandoki

RATING: R (sex, language, nudity)

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

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