Cookie’s Fortune (1999): Altman’s Serio Comedy Starring Patricia Neal in her Last Performance

 Though not one of Robert Altman’s strong films, the serio comedy Cookie’s Fortune boasts a stellar cast and offers some joys in its modest narrative ambitions and striking ensemble of actresses.

World-premiering as the opening night of the 1999 Sundance Film Fest, “Cookie’s Fortune” will be released by October in the spring.

Among other merits, the film features the last significant role of the ailing Patricia Neal, here playing Jewel Mae “Cookie” Orcutt, a rich Southern matriarch whose death precipitates all kinds of tensions and conflicts.

A satiric family melodrama set in a small town in Mississippi, the tale, scripted by Anne Rapp, centers on the relationship among half a dozen eccentric characters, most of which amiable.

The sudden death pf the much beloved widow brings out the worst in her sister Cora (Glenn Close, in her first appearance in an Altman film) and the best in everyone else, including the dim-witted sister (Julianne Moore, who had appeared in Altman’s anthology, “Short Cuts”).

Some circumstantial evidence point to the direction of Cookie’s black handyman (Charles S. Dutton) as her killer, though few members believe in it.

Very much a femme-driven saga, the film also stars Liv Tyler as Cookie’s granddaughter.

The tone of the film is warmer and more genial, and the approach more generous, than are the norms of most of Altman’s work, though ultimatey it’s  minor film.


Camille Orcutt (Glenn Close)

Cora Duvall (Julianne Moore)

Emma Duvall (Liv Tyler)

Jason Brown (Chris O’Donnell)

Willis Richland (Charles S. Dutton)

Jewel Mae “Cookie” Orcutt (Patricia Neal)


Distributed by: October Films

Director: Robert Altman

Produced by: Robert Altman, Etchie Stroh, (exec) Willi Baer

Screenplay (Original): Anne Rapp

Camera: Toyomichi Kurita

Editor: Abraham Lim

Design: Stephen Altman

Costume: Dona Granata

Music: David A. Stewart

Running Time:   118 minutes