Greene Screene: White Palace
The second most important day with my wife last year after our wedding day came September 4th, 2020. That was the day we watched Stargate together. That was the day Lili discovered peak James Spader.
Unbeknownst to me, Lili began an unparalleled cinematic mission: to watch every movie the Boston thespian has been in, in order. She was going… Into the Spaderverse.
This adventure started in secret, ashamedly watching Spader’s 80s TV movies on YouTube by her lonesome. It wasn’t until she started spending money that she came clean about her affair. Normally, I would be dubious about spending $2.99 on a shitty and problematic Andrew McCarthy movie called Mannequin — I loathe paying for movies beyond the litany of apps we already subscribe to. But in the scope of her grand obsession, Mannequin seemed like the best and truest use of $2.99 I had ever encountered.
And so it was how I became an enthusiastic passenger aboard the Spadermobile, along for the ride whenever Spader’s web wove around us both.
The magic of following an actor’s entire filmography is not only to witness his growth as a performer, and uncover a throughline in his work and choices, but for the random film discoveries you never would’ve seen (or heard of) otherwise. In a world where I’m constantly fielding recommendations to new movies and TV shows and know exactly what I’m going to get from them, this is what I’ve loved most about “Into the Spaderverse.”
Purchased on eBay for an amount she’s afraid to reveal, neither of us were terribly excited going in to White Palace, except for the promise of some Susan Sarandon/James Spader sex. (A promise certainly kept.)
Named after a White Castle burger ripoff that acts as the Meat Cute for Spader and Sarandon, White Palace is marketed as a tawdry older woman-younger man romance. And it is that, but what’s remarkable and surprising is how honest the film is. It’s not just sex. The movie takes their relationship seriously, and explores the complicated issues with intimacy that both of these broken people have.
On the surface (and per society), there’s no reason for Spader and Sarandon to be together. Sarandon works at a burger joint, Spader works in marketing, she’s “old,” he’s young, she’s poor, he’s rich, she’s messy, he’s OCD, and their differences neatly stack behind those lines.
On the surface, there’s no reason for this movie to be good; it didn’t need to be.
But White Palace is truly a film about class, about two drastically different people looking for a place to belong, learning to trust themselves to feel again after they both lost the loves of their lives. It’s a St. Louis movie where the moral is to leave St. Louis and the vacuous people your hometown friends have become.
In addition to Spader and Sarandon at the peak of their powers, the film features an obviously tupee’d Jason Alexander flexing his douchebag muscles and Kathy Bates as the world’s best boss. It has two of the best lines I’ve seen in any movie this year, and it’s taking every ounce of my self-control not to ruin them — but one concerns blowjobs and the other’s a climactic outburst about dustbusters.
Blowjobs, dustbusters and James Spader? Whatever Lili paid on eBay, it was well worth it.