Sunday, June 20, 2004

VIDEO: The Cooler

William Macy is one of my favourite actors and I enjoy his visits to late-night talk shows about as much as any guest short of Billy Connelly. An old taped episode of Leno that finally surfaced in my watch pile, prompted me to go out and grab a copy of The Cooler, now out in DVD.

Macy's Bernie is a loser. So much of a loser, that if Al Capp were alive he'd have named his jinxed loser "BERNIE Btfsplk." He makes his living, such that it is, by merely coming in contact with lucky people. That turns them from winners to losers.

In this "for grown-ups" movie, Bernie works for a casino. More specifically, a casino boss played with Oscar-worthy relish by Alec Baldwin. He's foul-mouthed, old-fashioned and violent. And he believes in luck and Bernie's ability to change it. As the movie starts, we find out Bernie's retiring from the bad luck game in less than a week.

In that week, things happen to turn Bernie from loser to winner. Her name is Natalie, a waitress at the Golden Shangri-La. She's just as damaged as Bernie. Maybe more so. Knockout Maria Bello plays Natalie just a little ragged around the edges.

At first glance, it seems unlikely that the May-September love-birds could find each other, let alone survive. And obstacles DO get thrown into their way. But by movie's end you believe the beautiful young woman and the old coot do love each other. And that luck, so long absent in their lives, has started making up for lost time.

I liked this movie a lot. I like that the DVD dispensed with coming attractions and got right to the movie menu. What I didn't like is confined to the ridiculously small number of extras. But you should watch the Sundance Channel's Making of A Scene feature. You'll have an even deeper appreciation of the movie afterwards.

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