American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
There is a brunch scene in "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills" that illustrates many of the ways in which the movie goes wrong. A former soap opera star (Jacqueline Bissett) is being interviewed by a magazine reporter in the presence of many of her friends and neighbors, and the conversation alternates between the banal ("There are 17 separate fires burning at this very minute") and the rude ("Peter, why don't you tell your new wife that you're in love with Clare?").
It is true that much of the conversation in Beverly Hills, and elsewhere, concerns the weather and natural phenomenon, and that shocking truths can sometimes explode in the center of a brunch conversation. But as you listen to the speeches in the scene, which continues for some time, you realize that it is all simply dialogue.
No real attempt has been made to create consistent characters and then allow them to talk as they really might. "Scenes from the Class Struggle," etc., is an assortment of put-downs, one-liners and bitchy insults, assigned almost at random to the movie's characters.
The film was directed by Paul Bartel, who specializes in comedies about unspeakable behavior (his biggest hit was "Eating Raoul," about cannibalism). He likes to shock, but I am not sure I would agree with him about what is really shocking. I am shocked when people do something unexpected, bizarre and out of character, but I am not shocked - especially in the movies - when people say and do things simply to be shocking. Their behavior then becomes predictable, and boorish.