American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Where the Money Is" has a preposterous plot, but it's not about a plot, it's about acting. It's about how Paul Newman at 75 is still cool, sleek and utterly self-confident, and about how Linda Fiorentino's low, calm voice sneaks in under his cover and challenges him in places he is glad to be reminded of. Watching these two working together is like watching a couple of thoroughbreds going around a track. You know they'll end up back where they started and you don't even have any money on the race, but God, what form.
Fiorentino plays a discontented nurse in a backwater town, married to the same guy (Dermot Mulroney) since high school. "We were king and queen of the prom, so it sort of made sense to get married," she tells Newman. "When did it stop making sense?" he asks. Newman can say a line like that to a woman and convince her it never made sense, even if she didn't know it until he asked the question.
I have given away a plot point by revealing that he speaks. In the opening scenes, he appears to be an old man paralyzed by a stroke. He can't move his body, he can't talk, he doesn't even look at anything. It's all an act: He's a veteran bank robber who has studied yoga in order to fake stroke symptoms so he can be moved from prison to the retirement home, which he figures will be easier to escape from. Actually, it's not such a big point to reveal, since (a) we somehow intuit that Paul Newman wouldn't be starring in the movie if he didn't move or speak for 90 minutes, and (b) all the TV commercials and review clips show him moving and speaking.
The old crook, named Henry, is a good actor, and fools everybody except Carol, the nurse played by Fiorentino. She notices subtle clues and tries to coax him out of his shell with a lap dance (she is dressed at the time, but in a nurse's uniform, which is always interesting). He resists. This is good yoga. She abandons sex for more direct methods, and he's forced to admit that he can indeed walk and talk. By later that night he's even dancing in the local tavern with Carol and her husband, Wayne.