It's hard to believe a film this sunny came from Robert Altman, and is also this good, but there you go. While I love some of his films, like M*A*S*H, MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER, NASHVILLE, THE PLAYER, and SHORT CUTS, there are times when I feel he has a fundamental contempt for his subject matter, like in THE LONG GOODBYE and POPEYE, and for his characters. But while this movie, well-written by Anne Rapp, is essentially a Tennessee Williams drama turned inside out Glenn Close's character is the only one who seems like a refugee from Williams territory , we instead feel a great deal for <more>
each of the characters. Even Close's Camille, whose machinations end up in the temporary jailing of an innocent man for a crime that never was, is somewhat likable.When Altman is on, we really get a sense of community and place, as opposed to movies which are just a triumph of production design, and this is no exception. The best example of this is how Lester Ned Beatty , a deputy sheriff, sums up his reasons for why Willis Charles S. Dutton , that innocent man referred to earlier, is innocent of killing Cookie Patricia Neal ; "I fished with him." In another movie, that line of reasoning would be ridiculous, but since you feel all of these people have known each other for years, it seems just right. And the rhythms of the town feel right as well, so you don't feel like you're just watching a filmed set.Casting has always been a hallmark of Altman films, and this one is no different. Charles S. Dutton is as good as they say, being more restrained than usual, Close shows great comic timing in her role, and Julianne Moore is very good as her put-upon younger sister, who has a lot more to her than meets the eye. And Altman regulars like Beatty and Lyle Lovett are quite good as well. The most surprising turns came from Liv Tyler and Chris O'Donnell. I've liked Tyler before in HEAVY, EMPIRE RECORDS, and THAT THING YOU DO! , but to imagine her with shorn hair playing a rebel who skins fish for a living was a bit much, to say the least, but she's utterly convincing. O'Donnell has always seemed too callow, but here he's quite funny as a deputy sheriff who's seen way too many cop shows. And he and Tyler have nice chemistry together.
Maybe it is the very believable dialogue traded by the sweet southern regard the characters have toward each other. I can't narrow it down, all I can tell you is that I have seen this film numerous times, and each time it is a sucker punch to my ice-encrusted northern heart. Just charming and delightful, Julianne Moore has the best role in the film, the romance between Liv Tyler and Chris O'Donnell is an aw-shucks triumph. Anyone critical of this film needs to sit down and watch it again-and pay attention to the endless little "Easter Eggs" Altman has hidden throughout Holly <more>
Delightful wry comedy with excellent cast (by btm1)
I loved this wry comedy that takes place in a small Mississippi town where everybody is, at least outwardly, friendly with everybody. It was directed by the late Robert Altman 1925-2006 , who also gave us M*A*S*H and Nashville, and much more. Terrible title, however. It has nothing to do with fortune cookies, or cookies of any kind. The fortune refers to the assets that the heirs of a family matriarch, whose nickname is Cookie Patricia Neal , will inherit when she dies.One of the little comedic touches I appreciated were the historical markers in the town, one of which I think read <more>
"nothing historical occurred at this spot." I enjoyed the treat of four generations each about 20 years younger than the next of noted actresses in one film. In addition to movie legend Patricia Neal 1926-2010 who won an Oscar for Hud, Glen Close who has had 6 Oscar nominations so far played Camille Dixon, Cookie's over-bearing theatrical-obsessed niece. Four time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore played Camille's subservient and perhaps dim-witted younger sister Cora Duvall. Cute Liv Tyler who was Arwen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy is Emma Duvall, Cora's estranged daughter.Charles S. Dutton is great as African-American Willis Richland, who is kind of a genial gentle care-taker for Cookie. At the end of the film we learn he is more than a friend.Famed singer Lyle Lovett plays a spooky peeping Tom character who is interested in Emma. His role didn't seem to be fully developed and didn't contribute much to the film. Chris O'Donnell plays a Barney Fife type sheriff's deputy, except he is very good looking and is romantically involved with Emma.Cookie, who's mind is beginning to go, misses her late husband and kills herself to be with him. Camille Dixon discovers the suicide and initially is shocked and horrified that people will learn that her aunt killed herself nice people don't commit suicide and affect Camille's social standing. So she makes it look like a thief murdered Cookie. But once she does that her horror turns to appreciation. She now can move into Cookie's grand house. But she hadn't counted on anyone in the town becoming a murder suspect.
What would it have been like had Tennessee Williams -- for some unfathomable reason -- been hired to write a script for "The Andy Griffith Show?" This is hardly a pressing question for either amusement or intellectual debate, but the answer would surely be something very much like Robert Altman's COOKIE'S FORTUNE. This is undoubtedly Altman's most accessible and likable effort. It is set in Holly Springs, Mississippi, but it could just as easily be Mayberry, North Carolina. Both are in a fantasy world just north of Sitcomville and across the ridge from Capratown. In <more>
Altman fashion, Holly Springs is populated with variety of oddball folk, but in contradiction to Altman tradition, they mostly tend to be free of cynicism and malice. Andy, Opie, Barney and Aunt Bee would feel right at home. Indeed, there is even a town jail where the cell doors are left unlocked, all the better to allow visitors to come and go as they please. The hypothetical contribution by Tennessee Williams is nonetheless apparent as well. There is a murder mystery, a suicide, a bit of gore, a dash of sex, some racial consciousness and Glenn Close, whose character might be a second cousin to Blanche DuBois. But these elements of dark and twisted madness aren't all that removed from the cheerful eccentricity that is a trademark of fictional smalltown America. As such, COOKIE'S FORTUNE falls somewhere between SHADOW OF DOUBT and THE GHOST AND MR. CHICKEN in its representation of bucolic life; there is a cheerful silliness to the characters, but tragedy darkens the edges just a tad. No one would ever accuse Altman of being the sentimental type. His screen career has consisted largely of taking pot shots at the American landscape, aiming to reveal hypocrisy behind everything from patriotism to idealism, with his preferred vehicle of deconstruction being the conventions of various movie genres. He has taken a wrecking ball to everything from the backstage musical to film noir to westerns to sci-fi. Yet he approaches the Capraesque vision of smalltown American with a gentle good humor, refraining from indulging in either parody or satire. COOKIES FORTUNE is probably the only Altman film where the characters are characters, i.e., loopy individuals, not archetypes to be debunked or mocked. I'm an admirer of Altman's films, but I have to admit that I am hard pressed to think of any other instance where I felt actual affection for any of his characters.Alas, Altman's visit to Holly Springs is no doubt a side trip in the director's journey from one "important" film to the next. A chance to stretch his legs a bit before getting back to the serious business of showing how corrupt the world is. That's a shame, because Holly Springs is a right nice little place to visit.
Throughout the long trajectory of his career, Robert Altman was known for interweaving multiple plots and characters within the context of a given theme. Think the brotherhood of the country music community in "Nashville" or the detachment of contemporary California life in "Short Cuts." But in 1999, Altman tried something a bit unique – he directed a motion picture with a plot. One plot. One story. A comparatively small cast of characters. It was called, "Cookie's Fortune," and it's this month's Buried Treasure.With a clever screenplay by Anne <more>
Rapp, "Cookie's Fortune" tells the story of Willis Charles S. Dutton , a handyman wrongly accused of murder in a small Mississippi town. His widowed employer Patricia Neal commits suicide at the outset, and her daughters decide to disguise the shooting as a murder in a vain attempt to preserve the family's reputation. Since Willis had just cleaned the widow's guns the night before, his fingerprints are all over them. And there you have the most plot structure you'll ever find in an Altman film.What follows this sullen and morose setup is Altman's funniest picture since "M*A*S*H" in 1970. You see, everyone in the town knows Willis couldn't possibly commit murder. The jailer a young Chris O'Donnell consistently leaves the cell door open, and the sheriff a fantastic Ned Beatty plays cards with him – in the cell! You see, Beatty's character knows Willis is innocent because, "I've fished with him" – which seems to be his quintessence test for everyone he knows.But, as in every Altman film, there's one character who doesn't quite fit. One who takes things more seriously than the others. Remember how pathetically dangerous Robert Duvall's Major Frank Burns seemed in "M*A*S*H" as opposed to the maniacal buffoon Larry Linville played on the long-running television series ? It was as though the Major Burns character walked on the set from another movie – just to give the audience a jolt; to let us know this is war, and war is real.In "Cookie's Fortune," Glenn Close plays Camille, the theatrical and mildly deranged daughter of the deceased – a slightly more comical version of her wicked turn in "Fatal Attraction." Camille is the smartest character in the picture, but she's also the one who doesn't belong; the one who, in a panic attack, might just turn this lovable comedy into a dreary exercise in unhinged madness. Fortunately, Altman is a skilled enough director to not allow this to happen, but my does he dangle it closely pun intended . Had Glenn Close played her role ever so slightly more unsettled, the entire film would have been ruined. Altman walks a fine line allowing Camille to exaggerate her pomposity, but then her function seems to be to remind us that this is murder, and murder is real.Still, Altman never loses sight of the fact that "Cookie's Fortune" is a comedy, dark though it may be. The script is peppered with well-drawn characters, and the acting is first-rate – particularly Ned Beatty as the sheriff, and also Liv Tyler as Camille's desperado niece, whose boyfriend just so happens to be Chris O'Donnell's maladroit jailer. Altman is a master handling these intertwining characters, as he doles out information in small enough doses for us to completely process their connections, and for us to understand the soul of the town in which they regale.Unfortunately, "Cookie's Fortune" was released during the spring doldrums – that period between the Oscars and the summer blockbusters, when the studios trot out the fare they don't think anyone will pay to see. By the time the Oscars rolled around that year, the talk was all about "Magnolia," "American Beauty," "The Cider House Rules," and "The Green Mile." "Cookie's Fortune" was simply a forgotten footnote to American cinema in 1999. And that's a shame. You need to seek out this one. It's funny, touching, and intelligent – and easily one of Robert Altman's ten best films.
From a Mississippian's Point of View (by pegalynw)
I absolutely love this movie. The acting was brilliant, and even though the plot primarily revolved around one central character, it was truly an ensemble movie. True, the characters may seem a bit widely drawn to some, but anyone who has spent any time at all in the deep South will have no trouble accepting the eccentricities and logic of the characters. "Because I fished with him" is as good as a surety bond in Mississippi. After you fish with a man you pretty well know what he's made of. I lived for many years outside the town of Holly Springs, and these folks could have been <more>
my neighbors. In the South we don't get in a hurry too often; so it's easy to see why a slower moving story might not be to everyone's taste. But anyone who wants to see a little piece of what could be real life in any small Mississippi town would be well served to see Cookie's Fortune at least twice. Once for the story, and once for the atmosphere. It's a real treat on every level.
Holly Springs, MS - What a Great Place to Live (by gbheron)
Robert Altman has an affinity for the South, and "Cookie's Fortune", reveals that it is gentle, pleasant and relaxed. Set in small town Mississippi there are none of the typical Hollywood stereotypes of flaming racial hatred, sexual oppression, and class bigotry. Well, not much at least. The characters in Holly Springs all know and like one another regardless of their race and social standing. Well acted by a great ensemble cast that portray an 'Altmanesque' kaleidoscope of small-town characters, most of whom are eccentrics. The plot revolves around the suicide of <more>
Cookie, a matriarch of one of the town's leading families. Since suicide is considered disgraceful, two of her nieces, upon discovering her body, cover it up to make it look like a murder. And then an innocent man becomes the prime suspect and...off we go. Ok, so it's not as 'deep' as many of Altman's films, nor as dark either. But that's not bad, and "Cookie's Fortune" is a very enjoyable movie. I recommend it highly for a Saturday night rental.
rather sweet; left me with a smile when I first saw it (by Quinoa1984)
One might call Cookie's Fortune a 'minor' effort from Robert Altman, a filmmaker who once commented that each film "is all part of the same picture", or rather one long movie with bits and pieces making up a career whole. But it has enough going for it through its very competent cast and interesting script to keep it afloat from being the kind of small film little old ladies might watch on TV during the day. In that sense it isn't as 'heavy' as some of Altman's other work. It is also cool enough to treat the subject of a mystery around a suicide with <more>
enough humanity to make some scenes smile-worthy. Considering some of the darker elements in the script, Altman depicts this to the point where- get this- Cookie's Fortune is sometimes shown on the HBO family channel! Is it really a kid's film? I'm not sure, but it isn't work for only one age group- its appeal from its cast of a collective of small towners is appealing to most in the audience. That the cast- Glenn Close, Liv Tyler, especially Charles S. Dutton, even Chris O'Donnell- gels and plays some of the dialog sincerely even when its meant to not be taken seriously at all, is a credit to the filmmaker. That it also might not be quite as memorable as some of the director's major films is and is not a fault. It is a fault because the subject matter is sort of stuck in a certain genre realm. It is not because the subject mater is also very much more intelligent than would be expected at times. I was also fond of certain scenes and interactions with the actors, the rhythm of it all, like early on with Dutton and the actress Patricia Neal who plays the old lady. I also really like the climax. So it's a good work about the rumblings and eccentricities of a small town, the good in people as well as the lesser parts, and parts of greed and death seen through a light that is not aiming for anything 'cheap', so to speak.
"American cinema is a bit like telling bedtime stories to children." - Peter GreenawayRobert Altman typically begins his films by quickly sketching some self-contained environment military barracks, hospital, dance studio, radio show, rodeo, stately mansion etc . His environment created, Altman then inserts an ensemble cast and lets his actors improvise or create their own roles. His actors in motion, Altman then uses a free floating camera to track various characters and tease out various subplots. Of course all directors do this, but Altman's plots seem particularly <more>
ill-defined. There is a sense of an entire world in motion, a world which continues along regardless of where Altman pokes his camera. We, meanwhile, are invited to choose where we look and what we see. And so we float from one seemingly arbitrary nodule to the next, sculpting the film ourselves and stumbling upon bits and pieces of a "story" which we are asked to piece together and make coherent. Altman also typically inserts some symbolic performance-within-the-film. His character's often gather to put on a play, production or show, a kind of self-reflexive model of the film they're in. The play within "Cookie's Fortune" is a performance of Oscar Wilde's "Salome", a tale of seduction, necrophilia, unlawful marriages and dangerous female seductiveness. Why "Salome" was chosen will become apparent to us later on.Jazz music often find its way into Altman's films. His aesthetic style is itself jazz-like, his films structureless, improvisational and constructed around riffs and ripostes. "Cookie's Fortune" itself takes place in a Mississippi town with a strong jazz and blues tradition. Altman populates this town with lovable Southern eccentrics, amongst whom are Cookie an elderly woman who commits suicide , a local sheriff and his deputies who do nothing but drive about and talk about fishing , and Camille Dixon, a bossy matriarch who tends to her slow witted sister, Cora Duvall. Other characters include Manny a lonely fisherman , Emma a rebellious young woman and Willis a kind black man and local drunk . Altman has always been a fairly relaxed film-maker, but "Cookie's Fortune" takes things to new highs or leisurely lows . The film begins with a easygoing walk, and the film as a whole feelings like one gentle cinematic stroll, Altman casually introducing us to his cast and the film's key locations. Elsewhere the film engages in Altman's love for subversion. Watch how scenes or images traditionally associated with danger are subverted or rendered benign. A black man breaks into a house, for example, but it is then revealed that he knows the owner. A man opens a gun cabinet, but he simply wants to clean the guns. A creepy peeping tom spies on a girl, but he means no harm. And so on and so on. Indeed, the film itself is a satire on the Southern Gothic genre and various Tennesee Williams plays, but Altman's tone is less caustic than usual. He seems to love this community of eccentrics.But there are sinister things lurking about. Watch how Camille Dixon, the director of the play within the film, becomes the God who controls the film's plot and who manipulates the on-screen murder investigation. Surrounded by a sea of inept actors and second rate actresses, she is in control of "Cookie's Fortune" the film, Salome the play, and Cookie's fortune, the literal will and testament of Cookie, a now-deceased elderly woman within the film. As her community bands together outside the Oscar Wilde play, however, Camille begins to lose control whilst they, ironically, begin to gain control of both Altman's film and Wilde's play. This power struggle is epitomised by a character played by actress Julianne Moore, who develops from an incompetent actress to the new star of Salome. She then usurps Camille.Typical of Altman, there's some dark inter-racial, psycho-sexual stuff hidden in the film's margins. In the Salome myth, Salome is the stepdaughter of Herod and dances seductively before Herod and her mother Herodias. Her mother had her with another man, an affair which causes John the Baptist to denounce the mother's marriage to Herod as being unlawful. For spreading what she perceives to be these lies, Salome executes John. In the film, it is implied that Emma's mother isn't her mother and it is her real mother's sister's husband who is her father. With Camille Dixon obsessed with "pride" and "preserving the pride of the family and community", it seems that perhaps she was covering up some affair or even a murder with a black guy who "went back to Africa to serve as a missionary" or jail or on the run . Altman inserts various breadcrumbs for those inclined to search.Elsewhere the film advocates a kind of humble, mixed-race community spirit. A kind of sexual liberation where black and white, upper and lower classes, put things aside and get along. The aristocratic and stuck up Camille Dixon a haemophiliac – on a symbolic level, her blood refuses to mix with outsiders belongs to an era which the rebellious Cookie and Emma turned their backs on, one skipping town and getting into trouble, the other literally wearing her humble Mississippi State university sweater to her grave. This kind of warmth was typical of Altman's later films, particularly "Prairie Home Companion".8.5/10 – See Mamet's "State and Main". Worth one viewing.