One night in a bar advertising exec Max Baron he meets Nora Baker - a 43-year-old waitress with a fixation on Marilyn Monroe. The couple gradually fall in love, though age and social differences mean that the path of true love is strewn with problems.
The 27-year-old Max Baron (Spader) works in advertising and has a spacious apartment filled with all the expected yuppie gadgets while the 43-year-old Nora Baker (Sarandon) works in a fast food joint (the White Palace of the title) and exists in a mess of a house on the wrong side of St. Louis.
This unlikely pair meet up by chance one night, first when he comes in to complain about a botched up take-away order and then later in the evening when they're both drowning their sorrows alone on bar stools in a run-down dive. One casual bout of passion later and Max is telling her it's just one of those things before rushing back to her doorstep and turning the affair into a Real Relationship.
Part love story, part comedy of manners, White Palace is a thoroughly entertaining if quite obviously far fetched yarn. Spader has his young yuppie act honed to perfection by now, while Sarandon the thinking moviegoer's older woman gets well into character as the brazen waitress whose lifestyle is perhaps best summed up by the overflowing ashtray in her bathroom.
Where White Palace really scores, however, is less in the handling of this unlikely romance as the way in which it cleverly builds up a persuasive sense of Max's social embarrassment as he realises more and more that he wants this woman but, er, he's not very keen on his swank friends and family knowing all about it.
Beautifully observed stuff, classy performances, and an occasionally exquisitely funny movie.