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Cookie's Fortune

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 5, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Robert Altman's Southern mystery may not hold much in the way of plot, but it does have a handful of tricks up its sleeve. Altman, who also directed "The Player", has chosen a story for this picture that may seem less complex on the outside, but still retains a fairly sizable amount of information on the inside, balancing the stories of many characters with impressive grace.

Patricia Neal stars as Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt, a woman who has become lonely at the end of her life. Although she is looked after by a local caretaker( a fantastic little performance by Charles S. Dutton), she still longs to be with her late husband again. Jewel's two sisters( played by Glenn Close and Julianne Moore) find Jewel dead, and the two begin to scheme a way to cover-up what really happened. I won't reveal any more than that, because one of the pleasures of watching this movie is seeing the performers work with this plot, but I will say that there are certainly more characters who become involved with not only the plot, but each other; Cookie's favorite relative, Emma(Liv Tyler) and a young police officer (Chris O'Donnell).

The film may take its time to get started, but the results are worth the patience. The performances, with a few exceptions( O'Donnell) are perfectly cast and do wonderful things with their roles. Although it's not quite as enjoyable a film as "The Player", it certainly has many pleasures.

The DVD

VIDEO:
I believe this is the first effort from the new USA home entertainment, and although I'm for giving everyone a chance on their first effort, it doesn't change the fact that I found the image quality on this release to be slightly dissapointing. The image is letterboxed at 1.85:1 and although some scenes, especially those in the bright sunshine do fare better, the image in general looks slightly on the soft side, and lacks detail. The dimly lit or nighttime scenes sometimes looked a little hazy. Colors are strong and warm throughout though, and are nicely saturated.

Although there is no pixelization or shimmering apparent, there were a few marks on the print that I found noticable, and a slight bit of grain on occasion. "Cookie's Fortune" is simply an average looking transfer, with a few scenes that are visual highlights, but a lot of this image looks a little flat and a little soft. The disc also includes a full-frame edition, which is located on the flip side of the DVD.

SOUND:
"Cookie's Fortune" is completely dialogue-driven, so other than the touches of music that are added here and there throughout the picture, there really isn't that much else going on in the audio. The score sounds crisp and clean, and there are no problems with dialogue clarity.

MENUS:: Although the menus are non-animated, they are still very nicely done, with lovely artwork and some pictures from the movie put together.

EXTRAS:.
Commentary: This is the first time I've had a chance to listen to an Altman commentary (he also spoke on the commentary for "The Player"), but I found his comments for this movie to be quite informative and entertaining, as he talks quite a bit throughout the commentary, with a presentation that is not only nicely balanced between production and acting notes, but also very well-thought out. In the first scenes, Altman covers quite a few interesting bases, commenting on the criticism that the film started off as being a little too leisurely paced( it was that way by design), talk about the buildings and sets of the town, as well as some notes about working with the film's writer.

Altman mentions quite a bit about the smaller details of the production and story; how it was planned as an ensemble piece, working with all of the various actors, and how some of the locations were used and found. A lot of the discussion also covers the design of the movie and how relationships between characters were greatly defined in the story. The only thing I didn't care for was that Altman occasionally falls back to simply talking about what's going on in the story or identifying , which is something that I never really like to hear in a commentary. I always like to hear stories about the production or actors or script. Although Altman does pause occasionally, I found the majority of what he did say to be interesting and informative. The commentary is not listed in the special features menu; if you want to select it before you go into the movie, look in the language selection menu.

Trailer: The 1.85:1 letterboxed theatrical trailer is included.




Final Thoughts Although I didn't find the movie to be outstanding, I still found it to have a lot of entertaining aspects. The DVD isn't quite as strong as I would have liked, but the Altman commentary is enjoyable. Worth at least a rental.

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