American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I'd love to see a thriller that was about what "Red Lights" starts to be about, the debunking of psychics by expert paranormal investigators. For its first two acts, the movie had me in its grip. Then it comes apart. Is there a fatal compulsion that draws movies into unnecessary action scenes?
The casting could hardly be improved upon. Sigourney Weaver is Margaret Matheson, a no-nonsense scientist who has dedicated her life to exposing psychic fraud. Think of James Randi. Weaver possesses an intrinsic authority that adds weight to her words; she can sound like she knows exactly what she's talking about.
Apparently she's never met a psychic she couldn't expose, except for one. That is the well-named Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), a blind mentalist whose specialty is bending spoons with his mind alone. This man has a hypnotic power over audiences and an uncanny stage presence. And De Niro allows him to embody something more — a haunting aura of preternatural mystery.
Apparently Matheson and Silver have been on a collision course for their entire careers. Her career means nothing unless she can expose him; his means nothing unless he can defeat her investigation. Now is that a great setup, or what?