Cookie's Fortune

Cookie's Fortune is a 1999 American dark comedy[2] film directed by Robert Altman and starring Glenn Close, Julianne Moore, Liv Tyler, Patricia Neal, Charles S. Dutton, and Chris O'Donnell. It follows a dysfunctional family in small-town Mississippi and their various responses to the suicide of their wealthy aunt, some of them turning criminal. Musicians Lyle Lovett and Ruby Wilson have minor supporting parts in the film.

Cookie's Fortune
Cookies fortune.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byRobert Altman
Produced byRobert Altman
Etchie Stroh
David Levy
James McLindon
Willi Baer
Written byAnne Rapp
Music byDavid A. Stewart
CinematographyToyomichi Kurita
Edited byAbraham Lim
New Films International
Sandcastle 5
Elysian Dreams
Distributed byOctober Films
Release date
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million
Box office$10.9 million

Filming took place on location in Holly Springs, Mississippi, where the film is set. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1999, and was entered into the 49th Berlin International Film Festival, held in February 1999.


Jewel Mae "Cookie" Orcutt, an elderly dowager in Holly Springs, Mississippi, commits suicide with one of her late husband Buck's pistols. Her pretentious niece, Camille, who directs local church theater productions, stops by later that day to borrow a glass fruit bowl, accompanied by her witless and submissive younger sister, Cora. Camille finds Cookie's body in the bedroom and drops the bowl, shattering it and inadvertently cutting herself. She eats Cookie's suicide note and attempts to make her death look like a murder. She steals a prized diamond and ruby necklace from Cookie's neck, and throws the pistol in the garden (observed doing so by Ronnie, a young boy who lives next door). Camille coaches Cora to say that Cookie was murdered, and summons Sheriff Lester Boyle to the scene.

Meanwhile Cora's wayward daughter (and Cookie's grandniece), Emma, returns to town after having moved away following several criminal offenses. Jason, an inept sheriff's deputy investigating Cookie's death, has long been romantically pursuing Emma. Willis Richland, Cookie's handyman and closest friend, is the first suspect in her death because his fingerprints appear on the gun she used to kill herself, but this is only because he had cleaned her guns the night before. He is detained on suspicion of murder. The same night, Jason encounters Camille and Cora moving into Cookie's house, despite it being an active crime scene, and escorts them off the property. Cora is shocked to find that Willis is the suspect, Emma openly protests it, and Camille feigns surprise.

Emma visits Willis at the police station, where Boyle and a local attorney, Jack Palmer—both fishing buddies of Willis's—casually play Scrabble with him in his unlocked cell. Willis recounts an anecdote about Cookie's prized diamond and ruby necklace, explaining that Buck once had the necklace appraised only to discover its jewels were fake, a fact he never disclosed to Cookie. Otis Tucker, a detective from a larger jurisdiction, arrives that night and begins questioning locals. Protesting Willis's detainment, Emma refuses to leave the police station until he is freed. In the middle of the night, Jason arrives at the station, and he and Emma have sex in an office.

The next day, Easter Sunday, Emma prepares a holiday meal for herself and Willis in his cell. Meanwhile, Cora and Camille return to Cookie's home and begin cleaning her bloodied bedding and removing the crime scene tape, assuming they are to inherit the house. They are interrupted by Jack, who arrives to look for Cookie's will, which Cora tells him is in the cookie jar. At the station, Ronnie's father brings him in to recount seeing Camille throw the pistol in the garden; moreover, Camille's rare AB negative blood is recovered from the crime scene, excluding Willis as a suspect.

That night, Camille and Cora prepare to debut their production of Salome at the local church, in which Cora and Jason both star. After police match the blood type to Camille, they descend upon the church as Cora is performing the play's Dance of the Seven Veils sequence. Camille is arrested and taken to the station, where Willis is prepared to be freed. Jack arrives to disclose Cookie's will, which bequeaths her entire estate to Willis, who is Buck's nephew; this fact was never disclosed to Emma, and she never suspected it as Willis is African-American. Emma is further shocked when medical records show that Emma is in fact Camille's biological daughter, conceived from an affair she had with Cora's late husband.

Tucker interrogates Camille the following morning. She recounts how she staged Cookie's suicide to look like a murder. Cora arrives at the station, and Camille is hopeful she will corroborate her story, but Cora insists that Cookie did not commit suicide. Camille is charged with Cookie's murder, and reenacts the Dance of the Seven Veils in her jail cell. Meanwhile, Willis and Emma go fishing with Boyle and Jack.



The screenplay is by Anne Rapp, and the film was produced by Willi Baer.

The film was shot on location in Holly Springs, Mississippi.


The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 1999, and was entered into the 49th Berlin International Film Festival, held in February 1999.[3]

Box officeEdit

Cookie's Fortune was given a limited theatrical release in the United States on April 2, 1999,[1] and grossed $186,828 during its opening weekend.[4] The release eventually expanded to 559 theaters, and remained in theaters for a total of 279 days, ultimately grossing $10.9 million.[4]

Critical responseEdit

As of 2020, the film had an 86% approval rating on the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times praised the film as "a gem among the fabled director’s ensemble movies, a Southern charmer—full of good humor and mature wisdom—that views human foibles with the bemused compassion of a Jean Renoir...  [it is a] beautiful, beguiling film."[1] Desson Howe of The Washington Post gave the film modest praise, writing: "By reducing his passion for actorly preciousness, Western Union symbolism and klutzy metaphor, Altman functions instead as a good manager of a decently written product. And he adheres sensibly to the filmmaking style that has served him for decades: introduce the actors to this moss-covered, indolent world, then leave them to sort things out in time for the ending. It's a simple formula but it works fine, even in the sleepiest of situations."[6]


The soundtrack is by David A. Stewart. The soundtrack album was released on April 2, 1999.[7] It features appearances by saxophonist Candy Dulfer.

  1. "Cookie"
  2. "Wild Women Don't Get the Blues"
  3. "Helios"
  4. "Camilla's Prayer"
  5. "The Cookie Jar"
  6. "Hey Josie"
  7. "All I'm Sayin' Is This"
  8. "A Good Man"
  9. "I Did Good Didn't I?"
  10. "A Golden Boat"
  11. "I'm Comin' Home"
  12. "Willis Is Innocent"
  13. "Patrol Car Blues"
  14. "Emma"
  15. "Humming Home"

All songs are by Stewart except "Cookie", "Camilla's Prayer" and "Patrol Car Blues", which are by Dulfer and Stewart.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Thomas, Kevin (April 2, 1999). "Altman Is One Smart Cookie". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 15, 2020.
  2. ^ Ziegler, Lynn (April 25, 1999). "Two gems: 'Cookie's Fortune,' 'Life'". Kitsap Sun. Archived from the original on June 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Berlinale International Film Festival (n.d.). "Programme 1999". Berlin International Film Festival. Archived from the original on June 8, 2014. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Cookie's Fortune". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  5. ^ "Cookie's Fortune". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  6. ^ "Less Filling, Tastes Great". The Washington Post. April 9, 1999. Archived from the original on June 14, 2020.
  7. ^ "Amazon soundtrack info". Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  8. ^ "Allmusic soundtrack info". Retrieved July 31, 2013.

External linksEdit