Saturday, February 09, 2013

Cookie's Fortune

Directed by Robert Altman and written by Anne Rapp, Cookie’s Fortune is the story about a small town in Mississippi where relatives of a wealthy dowager try to cover up her suicide as murder. The film is an exploration into small town life as well as a group of people coming together to help out. Starring Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O’Donnell, Charles S. Dutton, and Patricia Neal. Cookie’s Fortune is a strange yet whimsical film from Robert Altman.

The film revolves around a group of people who deal with the death of a wealthy widow who kills herself in order to reunite with her late husband. When one of her nieces decides to cover up the woman’s death as a murder in hopes to attain the woman’s home, things get crazy as a caretaker is accused of murder only for the woman’s granddaughter coming to his aid to help him. Things eventually get complicated though some of the cops believe that the caretaker didn’t do anything as questions are raised into what really happened.

Screenwriter Anne Rapp creates a film that is about a collection of oddballs that live in this small Mississippi town where they all know each other. When this wealthy woman known as Cookie (Patricia Neal) dies and suspicion of murder arises, a lot of questions are raised as it would take an outsider to finally piece everything together. Though the plot schematics does have an air of predictability, there are moments that does make up for it due to the characters that are created for this film.

Robert Altman’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of the way he presents life in a small town in Mississippi by actually shooting on location in that town. Yet, he does maintain that improvisational style that he’s known for in the way he approaches the characters. Notably as it includes a lot of mystery into not just all of these entanglements involving the relatives of this old woman but also her caretaker Willis Richland (Charles S. Dutton) who many people knew as this very kind man who always helped Cookie out. Still, there’s people like Cookie’s niece Camille (Glenn Close) who is intent on getting her house believing that she earned it and such. Altman does make sure that it’s about the characters and the way they interact as he’s able to do things to make up for some of the screenplay’s shortcomings. Overall, Altman creates a very engaging yet offbeat comedy-mystery about a group of oddballs in a small Mississippi town.

Cinematographer Toyomichi Kurita does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful photography to capture the beauty of small town Southern life with its natural lighting schemes along with more stylish work for scenes at night. Editor Abraham Lim does nice work with the editing as it‘s mostly straightforward while utilizing a few rhythmic cuts for some of the film‘s comical moments. Production designer Stephen Altman, along with set decorator Susan Emshwiller and art director Richard L. Johnson, does wonderful work with the set pieces from the staging of Camille‘s play to the home of Cookie.

Costume supervisor Susan Kaufmann does terrific work with the costumes to capture the more casual look of the characters as well as the more stylish clothes of Camille along with the costumes for the Salome play. Sound editor Frederick Howard does wonderful work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of church rehearsals to the intimacy of the bar. The film’s music by David A. Stewart is a real delight at it’s mostly blues-based music to play out the world that is the American South.

The casting by Pam Dixon is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it features notable small roles from Niecey Nash as a deputy, Rufus Thomas as a bar owner, Lyle Lovett as a catfish salesman, Donald Moffat as the town’s local attorney, Matt Malloy as a forensics expert, and Courtney B. Vance as an out-of-town investigator who tries to piece everything that’s happened. Ned Beatty is very funny in a small yet wonderful role as deputy Lester Boyle who believes that Willis is innocent while Patricia Neal is superb as the aging widow Cookie who longs to reunite with her late husband Buck. Chris O’Donnell is very good as the young deputy Jason Brown who tries to help out everyone as well as deal with his feelings for Emma. Liv Tyler is amazing as Emma Duvall as she is the granddaughter of Cookie as she returns to her small town to try and start over while helping out Cookie’s old caretaker Willis.

Charles S. Dutton is great as the kind caretaker Willis who is a very close friend of Cookie as he deals with loss as well as being accused of killing her as he and many know that he didn’t do it as it’s a very low-key yet charming performance from the actor. Julianne Moore is excellent as the very shy and childlike Cora who is often under Camille’s control while also carries a sense of ambiguity as she might know a lot more than Camille believes. Finally, there’s Glenn Close in a superb performance as Camille who tries to change the fate over Cookie’s death in order to gain Cookie’s home as she thinks she’s doing it for the greater good.

Cookie’s Fortune is a stellar yet entertaining film from Robert Altman. Featuring an amazing ensemble cast and an intriguing look into small town life in the American South. The film offers something that is unique while carrying that spirit of looseness that Altman is known for. In the end, Cookie’s Fortune is a very good film from Robert Altman.

Robert Altman Films: (The Delinquents) - (The James Dean Story) - Countdown (1968 film) - (That Cold Day in the Park) - M.A.S.H. - Brewster McCloud - McCabe & Mrs. Miller - (Images) - The Long Goodbye - Thieves Like Us - California Split - Nashville - Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson - 3 Women - (A Wedding) - (Quintet) - (A Perfect Couple (HealtH) - Popeye - (Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean) - (Streamers) - (Secret Honor) - (O.C. and Stiggs) - Fool for Love - (Beyond Therapy) - (Aria-Les Boreades) - (Tanner ‘88) - (Vincent & Theo) - The Player - Short Cuts - Pret-a-Porter - (Kansas City) - (The Gingerbread Man) - Dr. T & the Women - Gosford Park - The Company (2003 film) - (Tanner on Tanner) - A Prairie Home Companion

© thevoid99 2013

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