American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Well of course he wins the race and gets the girl. You know that to begin with when you go to a movie named "Winning" that stars Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and is about the Indy 500. The only questions are how does he win the race, how does he get the girl and what difficulties does he have? The rest is familiar territory.
To be sure, there has been a brave attempt to make "Winning" something superior to, say, Elvis Presley's "Speedway." The production values are lush. The photography is the most expensive money can buy. The love affair is more complicated than boy-meets-girl: In this one, Woodward is divorced, there's a 16-year-old son whom Newman adopts, there's adultery, there's crisis, there's some sensitive dialog. At times you almost believe "Winning" begins where "Rachel, Rachel" left off, with Miss Woodward catching that bus west out of New England and meeting who else but Paul Newman?
All of this, I've said, falls into the category of a brave attempt. It fails. You know, you just absolutely know, how drearily predictable the basic "Winning" plot is. It was possibly the very first plot Hollywood ever developed into a genre. "Winning" has been made a thousand time before.
The sophomore halfback wins the Rose Bowl. Dizzy Dean makes a comeback. The stubborn little singer cracks the Palace. The airmail goes through. The comedian, the race driver, the All-American basketball player, the drummer, hundreds of others: They all overcome adversity to win the Big Game, Race, Booking, etc., all the while fueled by reaction shots of the Girl sitting in the stands, audience, backstage, etc., smiling proudly because he has Won the Race and soon, we suspect, will Get the Girl.