American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"I'll bet you can never guess why I ran away from home," says a runaway teenager to her new boyfriend in "Where the Day Takes You." "Sure I can," he says. "You were raped by either your father or your stepfather. Everybody runs away for the same reason." He isn't far off. And the movie, which was shot on and around Hollywood Boulevard, shows a side of runaway kids we haven't seen before: how they form surrogate families in the streets, seeking reassurance and security that they never felt at home.
The movie is effective, well-acted and convincing. And that was a surprise for me, since a look at the cast (Dermot Mulroney, Sean Astin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Balthazar Getty and Ricki Lake among them) led me, walking into the theater, to anticipate some sort of Junior Brat Pack caper. Maybe the director, Marc Rocco, is good with actors. Or maybe these actors haven't had this kind of strong material to work with before.
Mulroney carries the movie, as the King, leader of a group of runaways who live in a hollowedout cave under the Hollywood Freeway and support themselves by begging, stealing and prostitution.
He is not what could be described as a good influence on the kids who join up with him, but he is a steadying presence, and feels genuine responsibility for his "family." Just as they band together for security, he perhaps feels a need to exercise responsibility, to look out for those who are obviously not able to survive by themselves.