American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Households like this exist only in the movies, which is all right, because that's one of the reasons we go to the movies: To see people who are crazier than we are. The Odom family, the subjects of Bruce Beresford's "Rich in Love," lives in an elegant old Southern mansion, surrounded by balconies and trees and easy livin'. Life is seemingly without problems, until one day Warren Odom (Albert Finney) comes home and discovers that his wife has left him.
He reads her farewell note incredulously, little suspecting it was rewritten by his peppy teenage daughter Lucille (Kathryn Erbe). She didn't change the content much; she just thought it could have been better phrased. Lucille, who is the narrator of the story, is a free spirit who must have come late in life to the Odoms, since Warren is retired and spends all day at home - one of the reasons his wife (Jill Clayburgh) moved out.
Life goes on. Warren and Lucille cruise the county, searching for the missing woman, but at the same time Warren finds solace in the friendly arms and delicious baked goods of a local woman (Piper Laurie), who lends a sympathetic ear. Then visitors arrive: Lucille's older sister (Suzy Amis) and her new husband (Kyle McLachlan), who have decided to move in for a while.
The tradition of Southern Gothic is ancient and well-established and does a good deal to paper over the unlikeliness of many of the elements of "Rich in Love." Like "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Steel Magnolias" and "Rambling Rose," not to mention Beresford's own "Driving Miss Daisy," these characters live to a different rhythm than people in the North (or, I suspect, the real people of the South). They're colorful and irreverent and eccentric and romantic, and they gab a lot about life and fate.