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Cookie's Fortune

Cookie's Fortune (1999)

March. 24,1999
| Drama Comedy

Conflict arises in the small town of Holly Springs when an old woman's death causes a variety of reactions among family and friends.


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I watched Cookie's Fortune because of the cast and director. I've always had mixed feelings about Robert Altman but have mostly enjoyed his movies. Aside from Hitchcock, or maybe Scorsese, I tend to view each of a director's movies individually rather than judging it against his/her oeuvre. I truly enjoyed this movie and was especially happy to see (or rather hear, because she was pretty much unrecognizable)Patricia Neal, who played her role with sensitivity and believability. So did the rest of the actors with the exception of Glen Close who veered towards caricature in every scene. The minute she appeared I winced, and continued to do so throughout the movie. Aside from that and despite the confusing "revelation of secrets" at the end (which seemed rushed and forced,)I loved this movie because of the atmosphere of the town, the acting, and the writing which was often laugh-aloud funny. I would recommend this movie to anyone who needs their spirits lifted by some light entertainment with a rueful and forgiving view of community.


Says lawyer Jack Palmer to Emma Duval, explaining the fate of her long gone father, a man she was told years ago had died while doing missionary work in Africa after he'd left his family. "He died alright, about four years later, somewhere down in Alabama in a button factory accident. Seems the hole poker machine broke loose and fell on him. They say he had 273 holes in him before they could get it off." After all that Emma and her friend Willis Richland have experienced in Robert Altman's Cookie's Fortune, it seems perfectly natural when Emma cries out in exasperation, "Willis, what is wrong with all these people?" The important point is that they all are part of a movie of great ease and geniality. Cookie's Fortune may be a little sentimental, perhaps, but it is so sweet-natured and natural, and so skillfully presented, that I think the film ranks among Altman's most accomplished works...even if what powers it is an old lady blowing her brains out. Jewel Mae Orcutt -- Cookie (Patricia Neal) - is aging and increasingly infirm, and she longs for her deceased husband, Buck. When she decides to use one of Buck's pistols to join him, she sets off the avarice of her niece, Camille Dixon (Glenn Close), who pulls along her slow- witted sister, Cora Duval (Julianne Moore). Camille is determined that no hint of a suicide will scandalize the family name, so she makes things look like a burglary gone bad. And, unintentionally, makes it look as if Willis Richland (Charles S. Dutton), a close friend of Cookie's who had worked around the house for her, must have done the deed. Well, there's no way Emma Duval (Liv Tyler) an unconventional young woman who is seriously estranged from her mother, Cora, and her aunt, is going to buy that. In fact, no one, even the local cops, believes that Willis would have burglarized and shot Cookie. For the next hour and a half we're going to take part in Altman's gentle examination of the people in this little cotton-growing town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. We're going to learn how to clean catfish, listen to the blues and, a little off camera, how to make love standing up. We'll encounter Camille's obsession with propriety and look aghast at her firm direction (and rewriting) of Wilde's Salome as a church play for Easter. We're going to see how skilled Lyle Lovett is at gutting a catfish and peeping into Liv Tyler's window at night. We're going to learn a lot about family relationships, even the more informally blessed kind. Most of all, perhaps, we're to learn just how much friendship and family can mean, especially when it's served up with such skill and off-beat humor by Altman and screenwriter Ann Rapp. And as good as all the actors in this ensemble cast are, Charles S. Dutton stands out. He gives a fine performance brimming with likability and honesty, and without a trace of Hollywood nobility. Willis Richland is a guy who has responsibilities, and that's just fine with him.


I absolutely love this movie. The acting was brilliant, and even though the plot primarily revolved around one central character, it was truly an ensemble movie. True, the characters may seem a bit widely drawn to some, but anyone who has spent any time at all in the deep South will have no trouble accepting the eccentricities and logic of the characters. "Because I fished with him" is as good as a surety bond in Mississippi. After you fish with a man you pretty well know what he's made of. I lived for many years outside the town of Holly Springs, and these folks could have been my neighbors. In the South we don't get in a hurry too often; so it's easy to see why a slower moving story might not be to everyone's taste. But anyone who wants to see a little piece of what could be real life in any small Mississippi town would be well served to see Cookie's Fortune at least twice. Once for the story, and once for the atmosphere. It's a real treat on every level.

Theo Robertson

I have to be honest and confess that I'm not a Robert Altman fan . His movies suffer from being cluttered with too many characters having their own sub stories which detract from the narrative COOKIE'S FORTUNE can be used as a good example . For the first half hour of the movie we're introduced to the characters of a small deep south town called Holly Springs , yes that's right a film that lasts two hours wastes quarter of its running time on umpteen different characters . After this has taken place an event happens which sets up the main plot of where a black man is blamed for something he didn't do and if you're able to stay awake at this point you're doing well Did I mention this was a comedy ? I thought I have to mention it since some people might be confused that this might be some type of hard hitting drama like IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and the movie continues in the same type of unlikely manner of blackly comical characterisation and plot twists . But if you like Altman you'll probably like this movie . I don't much and I didn't much