American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I am bemused by what a movie expects us to accept on faith. Consider the opening sequence of "After the Sunset," a diamond heist movie. Woody Harrelson plays Stan, an FBI agent who is a passenger in an SUV; he holds a briefcase that contains a precious jewel. After the driver gets out of the SUV, the thief Max (Pierce Brosnan) uses a PDA to assume control of the vehicle, backs it up at high speed and speeds away from the FBI security escort. On a side street, it halts in front of a garage door, and a semi truck pushes it sideways through the door, which slams shut behind it, and Stan is relieved of the jewel and foiled again by his longtime arch-enemy.
Very good. But now think some more. Max's partner in the heist was Lola (Salma Hayek), who disguised herself as a bearded squeegee guy at a stoplight, using her squeegee to read the bar code on the SUV window so Max could key in the vehicle on his PDA. Very good. But why did he need to know the vehicle identification number, when he manifestly had already customized the vehicle? After all, it contains the remote controls he is manipulating. Even the best-equipped SUVs don't come loaded with equipment allowing them to be driven automatically by PDAs. We're distracted from this logic by the obligatory scene in which Lola rips off her whiskers and wig, looking of course perfectly made-up underneath.
All very well. But hold on: Did I say Max was on a rooftop? Yes,
because that's how he can look down and see the SUV that he takes
control of. Excellent. Except, what happens after the SUV turns the
corner and races down the street and turns another corner? How can Max still see it? How does he know where to steer it? How come it doesn't run through a crosswalk containing a baby carriage, two nuns with six orphans, and a couple of guys carrying a sheet of plate glass? And how could they be sure the SUV would stop exactly in front of the open garage door, especially since Brosnan can't see what's happening? Maybe it was remote-controlled, too.
The movies are never more mysterious than when they show us something that is completely preposterous and get away with it. Not one viewer in 100 will ask the questions I've just asked, because in movies like this we go along with the flow. And this whole movie is flow.