Cookie's Fortune

Robert Altman is considered by many to be one of the best American directors around today. He is known for his intricate comedies with very large ensemble casts, including Short Cuts, Ready to Wear (Pret a Porter), and Kansas City. Cookie's Fortune is the latest movie from Altman, a slow paced murder investigation that takes place in the deep south. It stars, among others, Glenn Close, Charles S. Dutton, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O'Donnell, Patricia Neal, and Altman movie staple Lyle Lovett.

The title refers not to the small treat given at the end of a Chinese dinner, but to Cookie's (Neal) potential fortune. Cookie has just been murdered, and no one knows who did it. Local law enforcement is doing all it can, in its own way. Cookie's only living relatives are her two nieces, Camille (Close) and Cora (Moore), and Cora's free spirited daugher Emma (Tyler). The prime suspect is Willis (Dutton), Cookie's caretaker. Since this is a small town, everyone knows everyone else. The local police lock him up, but everyone knows he didn't do it. The truth is that Cookie missed her husband, and committed suicide. Camille stumbles upon this, and is horrified. A good woman doesn't commit suicide. She arranges things to make it look like a murder, with the help of her not too bright sister Cora. As her lies start to compound, the she has to do more and more to cover them up, and events escalate in classic farce fashion.

The only thing that isn't laid back in this town is Camille. While everything is going along at its merrily slow pace, she is running around trying to direct a production of Salome, take suspicion away from her, and cast it upon Willis. Altman and co-writer Anna Rapp gently lampoon the stereotypical southern old-fashioned way of life without actually making fun of it in a mean spirited way. Apparently they had such a good time writing this film together that they are working together again for Altman's next film. The characters are wonderfully scripted and acted (especially Dutton and Neal). Close gives a very funny over the top performance of a woman who is obsessed with tradition and image.

Haro rates it: Not bad

1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated PG-13 for a little violence.

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