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
Anne Rapp's association with Robert Altman began when she met him through her ex-husband who was one of Altman's racetrack buddies. The two clicked and started writing scripts together. Their first collaboration was one of the segments for the "Gun" (1997) mini-series. This was their second and they both enjoyed the experience so much that they reunited the following year for "Dr T and the Women". See more »
In the opening scene where the police car backs up and then pulls away, you can see the cameraman's shadow and then also his reflection on the side of the car. See more »
The warmth and great cast don't hide a clumsy, thin, stereotyped core...
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
A wacky, wobbly comedy with a stellar cast playing types and clichés that sometimes run against type and sometimes are too typecast to quite work. The writing varies, too, from warm to comic to contrived. The best parts of the movie might balance out the gaffes for you, though, as the plot coils and the very warm, almost-black comedy grows.
The main character here seems at first to be Cookie herself, played by a venerable Patricia Neal. As an old movie fan, this was enough for me alone, and it was great to see Neal at 73 still going strong (she made two movies after this one, too). But the real central character is Willis, played by the little known Charles S. Dutton, who has done a lot of t.v. Willis is a great old friend who helps the old woman out of appreciation and love.
One key to this movie is its setting--a small town in the Deep South where everyone knows everyone. And where old racial boundaries and still slow to fall. Cookie is the old white woman in the big house living alone while Willis is a poor black man who drinks a half-pint of Wild Turkey a day. The clichés are too plain to see, and are magnified by the ditzy, apparently racist two women who share a house, Julianne Moore and Glenn Close. Finally there is Liv Tyler who plays the new kind of woman, young and without prejudice.
Such warm and fuzzy comedy is bound to avoid real social commentary just as much as avoid biting humor, or laugh-aloud humor for that matter. You have to immerse yourself in the quirks of the town and the likable characters everywhere. Even the most murderous intentions here are just twitches and mistakes. You could almost picture living here, despite all the dumbed down clichés about what white and black culture is all about, and what the people in such a place are like.
No, Robert Altman has not quite laid an egg here, but if you take any of this seriously you might find the assumptions and clichés almost insulting, or at least so obvious and worn-out you want to run. From the goofy white cop who play Scrabble with the inmates to the big black woman who sings, of course, the blues in the local bar. From the worker by the railroad yard who lives in a caboose to Liv Tyler herself with that weird voice of hers who is so outside of convention and propriety you wonder why did she come back to this town at all?
The writing by Anne Rapp, a "script supervisor" by profession, is the weakest link here. The movie might gloss over its thinness by claiming to be funny, but it just isn't that funny, and it's too laden with the obvious to rise up in other ways. I think this is one of those movies that's going to get worse with time, too, as the clichés look more and more wooden.
But hey, lots of people like the film and the trick is to just enjoy what works and accept, if you can, the overworked clichés.
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