American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
On the basis of "Gigantic," Matt Aselton can make a fine and original film. This isn't quite it, but it has moments so good, all you wish for is a second draft. Nor is it ever boring. You can't say that about a lot of debuts. I suspect he was trying too hard to be terrific and not hard enough to get organized.
His hero, Brian Weathersby (the willfully bland Paul Dano), is a young and feckless mattress salesman. He was a late son in a tribe of unconventional brothers. When they all get together with Dad (Ed Asner) in the family's cottage in the woods, Dad bonds with him by consuming hallucinogenic mushrooms. How Brian would know he was hallucinating is a good question, because much of his life unfolds on the border of reality.
The Swiss mattress showroom occupies a vast upper floor of a warehouse. Into this space one day marches Al Lolly (John Goodman), a big man with a painful back problem. Brain shows him the high-end $14,000 mattress, which uses real horsehair, which is a big deal in the mattress universe. The mattress also inspires an inspection by Al's daughter, Harriet (Zooey Deschanel), a beautiful girl with startling blue-green eyes. Although you might expect to find her on magazine covers, she is as inward as Brian; they speak in minimalist murmurs, as when she asks if he feels like having sex with her, and he confides that he does. Later, he tells a friend that he doesn't know if he likes her or not. More accurately, probably, he doesn't know if he liked being jolted out of his lifelong dubiousness.
Ever since he was a little boy, Brian has been obsessed with the idea of adopting a Chinese baby. He doesn't understand why. He just is. Harriet might upset that dream in some obscure way. She invites him to her home, and he enters into a strange world ruled by Al Lolly, a rich, opinionated eccentric, who is driven everywhere flat on his back in the rear of a Volvo station wagon. The great open spaces of their apartment have been decorated by spending a great deal of money on a limited selection of furniture.