American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Carrol Jo Hummer gets out of the service with his eyes practically shining at the glory of his dream: He'll buy his own semitrailer and become that pillar of free enterprise, the independent owner-operator. He's a lad Horatio Alger would have been proud of-forthright, plucky and hard-working. What he doesn't understand, alas, is that he's landing himself in a morass of corruption. Before the movie's over, he will be driven to suicide: not his own, but his truck's.
He's the hero of "White Line Fever," a movie demonstrating that, while I know little about trucking, the film's maker arguably know less. They ask us to believe, for example, that it's the plight of independent owner-operators to constantly be forced (sometimes at the risk of their lives) to carry loads of contraband items. The fact is that most owner-operators carry pretty much what they damn well please. The movie might have been a little closer to the facts if it had taken on the teamsters-but why look for trouble?
Trouble, in any event, certainly comes looking for poor Carrol Jo. All he wants is to be Mr. Middle America. He has a wife and a house and his business and he's a straight shooter. But before the movie's over he'll be a cross between Buford Pusser and Billy Jack.
His antagonists are the owners of the Glass House trucking conglomerate, a corporate titan that inhabits a gigantic (did you beat me to it?) glass house out in the middle of the desert. This structure is so tall, so impossibly vast, that it looks less like architecture than like a trial run for one of the monoliths in "2001." And it's altogether alone. There aren't even any parking lots around it for, uh, trucks or anything.