American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Ron Howard's "The Paper" gets a lot of things right about working on a newspaper, and one of them is how it screws up your personal life. You get cocooned in a tight little crowd of hyperactive competitors, and eventually your view of normality begins to blur. The phrase "I'm on deadline!" becomes an excuse for behavior that would otherwise lack any justification.
Michael Keaton is just about perfectly cast in the movie as an assistant managing editor who cannot, under any circumstances, let a big story wait until tomorrow. Not even if his pregnant wife has been waiting for hours in a restaurant with his parents. Not even if it's costing thousands of dollars an hour to delay a press run. Not even if he's not exactly sure the big story actually exists in a form that is printable. He gets a strange light in his eyes and switches into hyperdrive, and only the other people who work with him can truly understand how he feels.
The movie takes place during about 24 hours in the life of a New York daily called the Sun, but clearly modeled on the Post. It's a scrappy tabloid that has teetered for years on the brink of bankruptcy, and its headlines scream sensationally in the biggest type (or "wood") the page will hold. But the Keaton character, whose name is Hackett, can truthfully say that it has never knowingly printed anything that was untrue. Until tonight, maybe.
A big story is breaking. Two men have been shot dead in a parked car. Two young black kids have been seen fleeing the scene of the crime. We know (because the movie tells us) that the kids are innocent. But there's political pressure to find the killers, and when the kids are arrested, every paper in town goes with the story, big. It's just that one of Hackett's reporters has overheard information indicating that the police themselves think the kids didn't do it.