Cookie's Fortune

It would be fair to give director Robert Altman credit for capturing the unique cadences and eccentricities of the Deep South in his new film Cookie's Fortune. Even so, the movie—with its bumbling police officers, busybodies, and simpletons—is about as disposable as an episode of The Dukes Of Hazzard. When Patricia Neal commits suicide, an ensuing investigation points to her longtime friend, caretaker, handyman, and maybe more (Charles S. Dutton), even though the entire town of Holly Springs, Mississippi—as well as the viewer—knows he is innocent. "Every family's got a few loose screws," says Dutton as he lounges in his unlocked cell, drinking coffee spiked with whiskey. Cookie's Fortune is Altman's most entertaining film since Short Cuts, and it boasts a nice ensemble cast that includes Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Lyle Lovett, Liv Tyler, Ned Beatty, and Chris O'Donnell, all in cotton-light roles. The film flies off the rails in its last few scenes, pointlessly untangling a complicated family tree and dragging on a bit too long for its own good. Still, coming after a trio of terrible disappointments (Ready To Wear, Kansas City, and The Gingerbread Man), Cookie's Fortune, for all its faults, is a welcome respite. In the uneven hands of Altman, you're better off with a flawed bit of fluff than an outright atrocity.

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