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Cookie's Fortune

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Cookie's Fortune

Starring: Glenn Close, Charles S. Dutton
Director: Robert Altman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: April 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O'Donnell, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Courtney B. Vance, Donald Moffat, Lyle Lovett

Review by Akiva Gottlieb
3 stars out of 4

Robert Altman has earned his reputation as one of America's most distinguished filmmakers. He has made war films(MASH), historical dramas(VINCENT & THEO) and legal thrillers(THE GINGERBREAD MAN). But this time around, he has directed COOKIE'S FORTUNE, a hilarious and quirky dark comedy that opened 1999's Sundance Film Festival. First time writer Anne Rapp wrote this kinda-sorta murder mystery that slightly echoes the Coen brothers' FARGO and David Dobkin's CLAY PIGEONS. What is kind of ironic about COOKIE'S FORTUNE is that 15 minutes into the movie, we know who commited the murder and how, and during the course of the film we are watching the citizens of a small town called Holly Springs try to figure out what it going on.

Willis Richland(Charles Dutton) has noticed that Cookie(Patricia Neal), an old lady whom he cares for, has started acting a trifle odd. One day, when he goes out to run a few errands, Cookie commits suicide to finally reunite with her dead husband. Unfortunately, the first to arrive at her home is Camille(Glenn Close), a quirky relative who has come to fetch a salad bowl. She notices that Cookie isn't answering her, so she goes upstairs to find Cookie dead, the gun in her hand. Camille's dimwitted sister, Cora, wanders inside and also sees what has happened. "Cookie did not commit suicide," Camille assures her. "Only crazy folks commit suicide." Camille, for reasons unknown to anyone except for her, wants to prove that her family isn't crazy, so she tries to pass off Cookie's suicide as a murder. She goes through all the steps trying to make it seem like a murder, and then calls the cops. Meanwhile, Cora's delinquent daughter, Emma(Liv Tyler), is back in town. When the police suspect Willis of commiting the crime, and lock him up, she decides to become her cellmate. Infact, the jail cell is basically an open room where the cops come in and play Scrabble and talk about fishing with the criminals. One of the cops is Jason, a very dumb young man who is in love with Emma. Jason is excited to be coping with the town's first real crime, and Camille is trying to cover it up right in front of him.

COOKIE'S FORTUNE isn't one of Altman's more important films, but it is still a cut above most dark comedies. Unlike many directors, Altman isn't trying to show off any derivative new style. He just wants the viewer to see the characters in their real life form, which makes the film all the more convincing. I'm surprised to see that the film recieved somewhat lukewarm reception at Sundance. Perhaps the viewers were hoping for something different. But I, for one, loved this entertaining gem. Infact I may have even enjoyed it better than Altman's last outing, the John Grisham's scripted THE GINGERBREAD MAN, which was also a very good picture. COOKIE'S FORTUNE is a breath of fresh air from other derivative movies made by twentysomething film students. It shows patient, developed filmmaking from a truly knowledgable filmmaker. COOKIE'S FORTUNE is one of the new year's smartest comedies.

Copyright 1999 Akiva Gottlieb

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