White Palace is a feature film from Universal Pictures that stars Susan Sarandon and James Spader in the title roles. Based upon a novel by Glenn Savan, the film was written by Ted Tally and Alvin Sargent and directed by Luis Mandoki. The romantic drama produced By Mark Rosenberg, Griffin Dunne and Amy Robinson centers around the May-December romance genre with a unique twist. When Nora, a 43 year old working class waitress and Max, a 27 year old well-heeled widower meet, their chemistry ultimately becomes undeniable.
Originally, the movie was to be called "White Castle," however, the restaurant chain refused permission to use its name and likeness in either the novel nor film. Since they also disallowed permission to film near any of their locations, the film was shot at an independent diner just west of the downtown St. Louis area.
The film also features Kathy Bates, Jason Alexander, Jeremy Piven, Steven Hill, Eileen Brennan and Renee Taylor. Shot almost entirely in the St. Louis region, the movie follows the pair's unlikely meeting at the fast food place where Nora works. When Max receives an incorrect food order, he returns, only to experience a heated exchange with Nora.
The pair meet again, this time at a smoky bar where Nora hangs out. Their short conversation leads to disclosures that explain most of their behavior up until that point. Max is shut down emotionally since the death of his young wife in a car accident. He gives Nora a ride home and he spends the night after it is apparent that he is unable to drive.
The inevitable happens and based on past experience, Nora is not expecting anything further. However, Max is taken with Nora in ways that no other woman has yet to have interested him, including his dead wife. The two set about a romance which seems to work in their insulated world.
However, when Nora is integrated into Max's social circle, they are made to feel uncomfortable. As a result, Nora is humiliated and their romantic life is subsequently disrupted. It becomes clear that neither of them is prepared well enough to handle the fallout.
This film covers the taboos surrounding older women and younger men and the social perception of appropriateness. There are also distinct references to prejudicial class distinctions.
With the loss of Nora, Max is inspired to seek more truth in his life. He discovers more about the kind of life he truly desires and ultimately defies his family's and society's definition of what sort of person with whom he should love and spend his life with.