American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"The Juror" tells the story of a woman who volunteers, almost eagerly, to serve on the jury in the trial of a Mafia godfather accused of murder. This is the sort of cross in life that many people happily would not bear, but not Annie Laird. When the judge asks her if she's read about the case, she says no - but she's heard about it from her son. And she knows enough to know the defendant is said to be "the big Spaghetti-O" in the mob.
She says that, and worse, in an open courtroom, with the defendant and his henchmen sitting right there. Wouldn't her mother's instincts at least prompt her not to mention her child? Is she a complete stupid-o? She's asking for it, and she gets it, in a movie that maybe could have been wrung down into a nice little thriller, but ends up long-winded and rambling.
Annie, played by Demi Moore, is a sculptor whose art consists of building boxes that you stick your hand into, to feel the strange things inside. Many observations could be made about this choice of work, but I will not make any of them. Before she even gets home from the jury selection session, a Mafia operator named the Teacher (Alec Baldwin) is inside her house, photocopying family pictures and phone numbers, and feeling up the artwork. The next day he surfaces as a so-called art buyer, who drops a check for $24,000 at her gallery and asks her out to dinner.
The Teacher doesn't mess around. He tells Annie that unless she says two little words - "not guilty" - terrible things will happen to her son and her friends. She believes him, and votes not to convict, but that's only the beginning of her nightmare.