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Cookie's Fortune
cast: Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Ned Beatty, Liv Tyler, Patricia Neal

director: Robert Altman

118 minutes (12) 1998
widescreen aspect ratio 1.85:1
Momentum Take One
DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 10/10
reviewed by Ellen Cheshire
Over the past few months you couldn't move for news coverage and analysis of the films of Robert Altman. With Gosford Park winning awards around the world and the BBC devoting an hour to promote the film with their Omnibus TV special, you wonder quite what the press and distributors were up to a couple of years ago when his last film, Cookie's Fortune, slipped quietly in and out of your local multiplex.
   Set in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi over the Easter weekend, Cookie's Fortune primarily tells the tale of Cookie's death and who gets her fortune. As usual, Altman once again sets up a series of interconnected stories and displays real pleasure in slowly uncovering the hidden connections, much like the Easter eggs hidden in Cookie's garden.
   Altman's camera roves around this small town, much like the out of town police chief brought in to investigate Cookie's apparent murder and introduces us to an array of eccentric characters. Ageing widow Cookie (Neal) is so desperate to join her husband she takes her own life leaving her two meddlesome and unpleasant nieces Camille and Cora (Close and Moore) to clear up the mess. Camille, who is currently directing the town's Easter production of Salome, directs the crime scene and her somewhat dim sister's response with such aplomb that the town's bumbling police officers, Lester Boyle (Beatty) and Jason Brown (Chris O'Donnell), soon believe that there is murder afoot. Willis (Charles S. Dutton), Cookie's loyal and trusted (black) friend is soon behind bars, but finds that his friends, lawyer (Donald Moffatt), Cookie's granddaughter, Emma (Tyler) are in the cells playing scrabble with him. Naturally, the big out of town police turn up on the scene believing, quite reasonably, that the local law enforcement might be a little biased and unprofessional. Other quite astonishing and eccentric performances can be found along the way including Manny Hood (Lyle Lovett) a local catfish tycoon who has an unhealthy obsession with Emma, and Deputy Wanda (Nicey Nash) and Blues Singer (Ruby Wilson) shameless flirtation with the police chief (Courtney B. Vance).
   Boasting an astonishing list of established and up-and-coming stars it is possibly less ambitious than some of Altman's recent outings (The Player, Short Cuts, Pret a Porter and Gosford Park) as Anne Rapp's screenplay is tightly focused, staying on course without too many ellipses and asides. Unlike many of his films, this one is neatly resolved with all loose strands tied up. Cookie's Fortune is one of Altman's more friendly and warm-hearted projects, yet it still manages to deal with death, murder, family squabbles and - most frightening of all - amateur theatricals.
   DVD extras: cast and crew interviews, productions notes, Making Of Cookie's Fortune featurette, trailer, Dolby digital 5.1 sound, English subtitles.