"A nice, slow as Southern molasses, gentle comedy."
Veteran director Robert Altman, the absolute master of the comeback, has had it pretty rough since his THE PLAYER - SHORT CUTS grand return (READY TO WEAR or KANSAS CITY, anyone?). With his new film COOKIE'S FORTUNE, a quirky gothic Southern comedy, he makes yet another re-entrance into critical favor. It's his best film in years.But beware of overzealous critics pro and con. Some have already gone as far as to suggest it’s his best ever and some saying it's his worst. It’s hardly either. Just a nice, slow as Southern molasses, gentle comedy that goes down like fine brandy.
Set in a small Mississippi town populated by eccentrics young and old, COOKIE’S FORTUNE is the story of a town that comes apart when the local matriarch is found shot. Patricia Neal plays Cookie the richest lady in town and the only one holding it together. When she dies, they immediately arrest a black man and the resulting old south meets the new concoction makes for surprising, light entertainment.
Like a screwball comedy version of THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (with Neal as the Ben Johnson Sam the Lion character), COOKIE gives ample time to a wide variety of good acting, with Charles S. Dutton putting in his most subtle work to date. This being an Altman vehicle, the cast is large and even the smallest parts memorable. Liv Tyler, who plays the town’s kookie free spirit continues to glide through film after film with an ease before the camera that seems effortless. (Some already have taken to calling her the Teflon actress as even in bad films like ARMAGEDDON the blame never sticks to her.)
Less memorable cast members include a dufus Chris O’Donnell as a bumbling deputy and Julianne Moore who plays the sister of the villain of the piece, Glenn Close. Moore seems to be channeling an eight year old and this makes for a funny, if one noted, performance. Close pulls out all the stops as she sends up the old South and all its useless formalities. Oddly enough, she is the most vivid and tragic character in an otherwise lightweight film.
Nearly plot-less in the first half hour and over plotted in the last, this is for Altman fans who appreciate his slower Southern meditation films like THIEVES LIKE US and COME BACK TO THE FIVE AND DIME.As the pace is slow and the humor sly and subtle the chance of new recruits joining the Altman bandwagon are slim. Better yet, they should rent (letterbox only please) copies of THE PLAYER, M*A*S*H, or McCABE AND MRS. MILLER. --- Paul Zimmerman - iF Magazine (http://ifmagazine.ifctv.com)