Altman! Altman! Altman!
Cookie's Fortune has to be my favorite Robert Altman film (with the caveat that there's quite a slew of them I haven't seen as yet). For a story that deals with such dark elements as suicide, wrongful arrest, family secrets, and estrangement, the approach is light and folksy, making the larger issues almost beside the point.
The action happens in a small southern town, Holly Springs, where everybody knows each other, and the height of the social season is the church play. The story meanders around, another Altman ensemble picture, at just the same pace as life in such a place.
The characters approach caricature, but are handled with such a delicate touch, they never quite pass completely into their stereotypes. Cookie is an old woman, who misses her dead husband Buck. Willis (Charles Dutton) is her good friend, who helps around the house, and sees that she's doing okay. Camille (Glenn Close) is Cookie's niece, an image-conscious busybody who runs the church play, as well as her sister Cora (Julianne Moore). Emma (Liv Tyler) is Cora's estranged daughter, just back in town and living out of her van. I could keep going with this list, but it might never end, from the people in the local shops, to the Mayberry-esque police department. Everyone is spot-on and interesting to watch, even Tyler, who has a tendency to seem out of place in films.
In a film like this, as in many of Altman's, the plot is a bit beside the point, except as it gives us the opportunity for the characters to react and maneuver in new situations. There's no lesson, no moral, just an appreciation for the good qualities in people, and there's no more I need from a film like this.
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