Robert Altman's films are generally known for their cool misanthropy, but Cookie's Fortune
finds the veteran director in atypically genial mood. Set in a sleepy Mississippi township, it takes in suicide, fraud and wrongful arrest, but there's never any feeling of peril. A white Southern sheriff; a black man held for the murder of an elderly white woman; all the ingredients for an explosion of racist venom, you'd think. But no, not this time. The dead woman is the Cookie of the title, sweetly dappy, who decides to join her beloved dead husband; the black man is Willis, her live-in factotum. But Cookie's snobbish niece Camille (Glenn Close, pulling out a few extra stops on her Cruella DeVil persona) can't bear the thought of suicide besmirching the family name, and fixes the evidence so that Willis is accused of murder. Not that the sheriff believes it for a second; hell, he and Willis go fishing together...
As ever, Altman directs with freewheeling aplomb and ropes in a whole cast of eccentric characters, all of whom dive into their roles with gusto. Julianne Moore, as Camille's dippy sister, gets some of the most outrageous scenes; her gloriously inept performance in Wilde's Salome for the local amateur production has to be seen to be disbelieved. OK, maybe the South was never as lazily easy-going and largely colour-blind as it's presented here; but it's hard not to suspend disbelief and relax into this beguilingly shaggy-doggish Southern comfort of a movie.
On the DVD: the usual ingredients--theatrical trailer, written production notes, a 10-minute featurette on the making of the movie and brief snatches of interview with the director and his lead players. No revelations, but everyone seems to have had a genuinely good time--as always the actors adore working with Altman. Widescreen (1.85:1) ratio and Dolby 5.1 make the most of his practised eye (and ear) for detail. --Philip Kemp
United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.85:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast/Crew Interview(s), Featurette, Interactive Menu, Making Of, Production Notes, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: Living in the decayed grandeur of a splendid antebellum house is uninhibited Jewel Mae Orcutt, known by one and all as Coo-kie, including her long time retainer Willis. Coo-kie remains full of spirit, but she's becoming forgetful, that worries the devoted Willis as much as the fact that it's only a matter of time before she can no longer climb up the stairs to her bedroom. For her part, Coo-kie is increasingly overcome with longing for her beloved late husband, Buck. So much so she decides it's time to end it all.
SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Berlin International Film Festival, ...Cookie's Fortune