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The story centres on the suicide of long-grieving widow, Cookie (Patricia Neal) who has been a fixture in the small town of Holly Springs, Mississippi. She is so lonely for her long-dead husband that she decides she wants to join him prematurely. This is just part of an unusual chain of events. Her niece Camille (Glenn Close) is horrified at the death, more ashamed at having a suicide in the family, and she tries to cover it up. Such words as “not a lady-like act” and that “it’ll look bad for the whole family” epitomises her nasty attitude. Camille is perceived as a pillar of society because she does her own adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s story “Salome” which stars her younger sister Cora (Julianne Moore) in the title role. However, Cookie always had a special fondness for Cora’s daughter Emma (Liv Tyler).

So upset at the bad publicity, Camille actually eats Cookie’s suicide note and makes it look like her aunt was robbed and murdered. With these scenarios’, a person has to be blamed. Cookie’s best friend had been a black man named Willis (Charles S Dutton), yet he gets jailed on suspicion of murder. Emma shows her support for him by accompanying him in the cell. Willis is seen as the gentle, beloved figure.
In this slow Southern town, achieving a proper investigation is hard going where every second person seems to have “gone fishing”. The “Salome” costume drama takes precedence at this time. Dutton pulls off a very good performance as the sympathetic Willis. Liv Tyler plays her tomboy role well, and has an affair with docile cop Jason (Chris O’Donnell).
The organic nature of this small town community owes much to the clever script of Anne Rapp. The town of Holly Springs becomes a character in its own right. Interestingly, as the population is split black and white, there is no racial issue evident. Director Robert Altman called upon ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart to create the score that reflects the heart of the South. This movie has some witty, topical references, the trademarks of Altman. He orchestrates musical moods and images to draw audiences in and activate their emotions. With his droll touch, and a talented offbeat cast giving their all, Cookie’s Fortune is very entertaining and purposeful, where the good and bad features of family pride are traced.