American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
What we have here, depressing and harrowing and often very real, is the other side of the coin of “Breaking Away.” That movie was a celebration of the possibilities involved in coming of age in a small town. “Over the Edge” is a funeral service held at the graveside of the suburban dream. It tells a ragged story that ends with an improbable climax, but it's acted so well and truly by its mostly teen-age cast that we somehow feel we're eavesdropping.
The movie's set on those dry, rolling plains west of Denver, where suburbia creeps toward Boulder, and Boulder creeps back. The name of this suburb is New Granada—an oasis of split-level homes and streets curving gracefully toward their dead-ends at the end of the development. The soft plops of tennis balls tick away the afternoons. Oh, and there are kids here, too. They hang out at a Quonset hut that's the local youth center, and if you know the right kid you can get a deal on grass, hash, ludes, speed, whatdaya need?
The parents are concerned about the "youth problem." So are those adults delegated to hold the local kids in check: The cops and the schoolteachers. The cops aren't intrinsically evil; they just know a lot more about police methods than about human nature. The teachers are all but defeated by an openly defiant student body. Most of the kids, I should add, aren't really that bad: It's just that they feel unwelcome, somehow, when the youth center is shut down the day Texas investors visit New Granada, so the Texans won't think the suburb is infested by teen-agers.
The story involves a basically good kid named Carl (Michael Kramer), who's in with the wrong crowd—kids who deal dope and play around with a gun one of them stole from someone's home. Carl's parents love him, after the fashion of parents driven up the wall by teen-agers, but they despair of keeping him out of trouble. The only person who understands Carl, in a visceral, instinctive way, is his girl friend, Cory (Pamela Ludwig). Their scenes together have a wonderfully understated authenticity. Then one of Carl's friends is busted, another one is arrested for carrying a switchblade, and Carl gets involved in a very nasty situation in which a cop shoots one of his friends. All of this is on the way toward the apocalyptic ending that the movie's ads found promotable.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...