' Cinema Romantico: Cookie's Fortune

Friday, April 06, 2007

Cookie's Fortune

Certain films possess the ability to transport you to specific places despite your particular viewing locale. Watch "The Myth of Fingerprints" and tell me the interior of your home does not feel just like rural Maine. Watch "The Dish" and tell me your soul is not spirited away to Parkes, Australia. Watch "Manhattan" and tell me you don't feel as if you've suddenly been plopped down in the middle of, well, obviously. The same goes for "Cookie's Fortune" and its hamlet of Holly Springs, Mississippi.

I watched "Cookie's Fortune" almost immediately after seeing "Prairie Home Companion" last year because I was in the mood for some more Robert Altman. And this early '90's piece is classic Altman - meandering camera, sprawling cast, wonderful dialogue.

Cookie of the title is a widow still deeply love in with her husband Buck and her closest friend is her caretaker Willis (Charles S. Dutton). As the movie opens we find Willis drinking adult beverages at the local watering hole and he then returns to Cookie's home where he needs to clean her gun collection as he promised.

Unfortunately, the following morning Cookie takes one of the guns we have just seen Willis cleaning and takes her life.

This is when Cookie's nieces Camille (Glenn Close, playing a wonderfully operatic villain) and the not-quite-all-there Cora (Julianne Moore, back in that 10 year or so window when she was hitting every performance out of the park) show up the next morning and Camille - unwilling to have a family member presented in public as the type to committ suicide - sets about re-staging the scene to make it appear as if it were a murder.

This would be a good time to note Camille is also in the midst of directing the Holly Springs Easter Play (Oscar Wilde's "Salome", which she has taken the liberty of re-writing). Theatrics are her business.

All signs now point to Willis being the murderer being as how his fingerprints are all over the guns. No one in town believes Willis did it. The sheriff is his fishing buddy and lets himself into Willis's cell to play scrabble. Cora's daughter Emma (Liv Tyler), who considers Willis family, vows to remain in the cell with him until his innocence is proven. Heck, the cell door stays wide open at all times, both day and night, without fear of Willis going anywhere.

Slowly we come see the movie is not necessarily about the "murder", per se, but about the world of Holly Springs. We see everyone interacting because of what happened and little mysteries are revealed although little mysteries, as we all know, are the biggest.

As I believe I've said before, Robert Altman was always a director more interested in character than plot. And in "Cookie's Fortune" we get a heap of character. Witness Willis taking a bottle of Wild Turkey from the local watering hole, and the bartender saying nothing as he knows Willis will show up the next morning with a replacement bottle, which he does. And especially watch the way Willis introduces himself to the detective assigned to the case as "your suspect". These types of graceful touches are all over the film.

Dutton is fantastic as Willis. He's the type of guy - as he ambles about town - with whom everyone wants to stop and chat. I think I'D even want to stop and have a chat with him. Oh, maybe not a really long chat, but a chat nonetheless. His every mannerism is inviting. His performance exudes warmth. The whole movie exudes warmth.

"Cookie's Fortune" is perfect Easter viewing. For you, my loyal readers, I would recommend watching it this weekend. Although for the staff here at Cinema Romantico it is mandatory.

1 comment:

Wretched Genius said...

Thanks for reminding me about this movie. I'd wanted to watch it a while ago, and then completely forgot it existed. I've now added it to my Netflix list.