Robert Altman has returned in triumph to what he does best, the ensemble film. His location is Holly Springs, a historic small town in Mississippi, where the fishing pole, difficult families and singing the blues comes with the territory.

Based on an excellent original script by Anne Rapp, it centres around the body of a woman, lying in a big bed, with a pillow over her face, in a grand old house, cluttered with memorabilia. Was she killed, or did she shoot herself?

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The local cops go through the motions, but have no real experience of this kind of thing, and, since everyone knows everyone around here, making rules about crime scene etiquette is an exercise in futility. They arrest the wrong guy, naturally, until a proper detective from out of town takes over.

It is not so much the shock of the death, or what happens afterwards, or the motives behind all that, which elevates the movie into an area of eccentricity, laced with Wild Turkey and sweet delight. It is the characters.

Altman has chosen the perfect cast. Outstanding are Patricia Neal as Cookie, the oldest member of the Orcutt family, Charles S Dutton as her loyal black friend and helper, Glenn Close as her opinionated niece and Julianne Moore as another niece who can't make decisions to save her life.

Liv Tyler is a ballsy rebel from the next generation, with a bad girl reputation for being too sassy for these good Southern folk. Chris O'Donnell is the rookie cop, who has the hots for her, guaranteed to make a tricky situation trickier. Definitely homegrown, Cookie's Fortune is a reminder that no amount of computer-generated wizardry can lift the spirits as high as wish-list actors in exactly the right place with a script they respect and a director they revere.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Ensemble drama centring on a death.
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Director: Robert Altman

Writer: Anne Rapp

Starring: Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Chris O'Donnell, Charles S. Dutton, Patricia Neal, Ned Beatty, Courtney B. Vance, Donald Moffat, Lyle Lovett, Danny Darst

Year: 1998

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


EIFF 1999

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