With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.
Cookie's Fortune unfolds over an eventful Easter weekend in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. The town residents are peaceful, kind folk -- with the exception of Camille Dixon -- a pushy theatre director with an incredibly shy younger sister, Cora, whose estranged daughter Emma has just returned to town. On the heels of her latest play, Camille is shocked to discover that her Aunt Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt has committed suicide. Terrified at the thought of how this will tarnish the family name, she eats the suicide note to make it look like a burglary. This set-up leads the police to one main suspect, Willis Richland, who also happens to be Cookie's best friend. Although the rest of the town is convinced Willis didn't commit the crime, an outside investigator isn't so sure. As Easter Sunday and opening night of the play arrive, the truth comes out, revealing more secrets than anyone could have possibly imagined. Written by
Cookie's Fortune is another ensemble character piece from Robert Altman, although it's of a lot less magnitude than some of his previous works. The story centers around a group of citizens in the quaint town of Holly Springs, who are thrown into disarray by the sudden death of Cookie Orcutt (Patricia Neal). Altman's scope is much more intimate than some of his other ensemble pieces, and it fits the characters nicely. The whole thing, accompanied by a nice blues score, has this quaint and relaxed atmosphere to it. This makes the film move by at a slower pace, but I never really felt like it dragged or anything, it just sort of coasted along.
There are several characters that we focus on, from Cookie's nieces Camille and Cora (Glenn Close and Julianne Moore) to her best friend Willis (Charles S. Dutton) to the police (Chris O'Donnell, Ned Beatty and a few others) to Cora's estranged daughter Emma (Liv Tyler), who has coincidentally just strolled back into town after being gone for a while. Cookie's death sends waves through the small community and turns everyone's situations upside down, resulting in comedic strides and a police investigation. When focusing on the individual characters, I definitely enjoyed myself most of the time, especially when it came to the erratic and revoltingly vain Camille (played with utter theatrical delight by Close) and the eternally laid-back Willis, but I don't think the script managed to bring the characters together in an entirely fluid manner.
This especially became a problem when the film was focused on Camille and Cora, who felt as though they were in an entirely different film. The majority of it had that bluesy, Southern atmosphere to it but then you get to the scenes with the two of them and it's like they're in a Tennesse Williams play. The characters are supposed to be a contrast to the rest of the ensemble, but the tones of their sections don't mesh at all with the rest of the film and it's quite distracting. The cast for the most part does a fine job, Close being the only one who impressed me on any major level, but Tyler and O'Donnell stick out like sore thumbs, the flattest pieces of wood in an otherwise quite alive ensemble.
I think my main problem with it though came from the final act, which is just a bizarre disaster. Out of nowhere the investigation starts turning up revelations of different familial bonds and lies from the past, but they truly come out of nowhere and ultimately add nothing to the film. It gets so confusing and incoherent in the final act, I don't have a clue what possessed writer Anne Rapp. It drags the film down considerably, but the rest of it was alright, if relatively insignificant.
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