Baby Bean is Growing

 BabyFruit Ticker

Monday, May 10, 2004

The Cooler - Movie Review

Whoever thought that the art of the character actor was dead, is dead wrong. A few lonely souls remain, destined for greatness not as leading men or women, but as those memorable characters who stick with us and color our memories of a certain time, a certain place, a certain film. William H. Macy is one of those souls. While his shock of red hair, funny flat face and broad clownish grin will never win him People's Sexiest Man of the Year, his actual talent never fails to blow me away, and I am constantly grateful that someone, somewhere, saw past the status quo of good looks and not much else, and decided to give him a chance.

In one of his latest films, The Cooler, Macy actually has a chance to play a leading roll, and does so with all the style and grace of the classic character actor. His character, Bernie, is the living incarnation of bad luck, and he works for an old school Vegas casino as a "cooler." He walks through the casino, just being himself, and everyone around him suddenly watches their luck turn for the worst.

Shelly (a smooth, not quite overblown Alec Baldwin) is an old time gangster who owns the casino and employs Bernie as a cooler. He knows a good thing when he sees it, and he's not about to let it go. At the same time, however, Shelly is being hustled by a young VP intent on bringing the casino into the 21st century version of Vegas: the clean, family friendly, Disney-esque Vegas of which Shelly wants no part. Baldwin gives a very well written and well delivered monologue near the beginning of the film about the fate of the new Vegas which is well worth watching for.

Then in walks lady luck herself in the form of a pert young waitress named Natalie (Maria Bello). She falls for Bernie, and suddenly, Mr. Unlucky can't do anything wrong. Which is the wrong thing to do when dealing with a low-life like Shelly.

Although Bello is probably about half his age, she and Macy pull off an incredibly convincing love story. The brilliant acting makes this union of opposites seem poetic, tragic, and even archetypical in its oddity and simplicity.

The best part of this movie is that you are drawn in by these characters. You root for the underdog like there's no tomorrow, and none of the film's infrastructure gets in the way of the characters or the story. The cinematography is subtly conceived to create a timeless feeling within the casino and the city so that, as Bernie's character observes, you never know if it is night or day. Then, as Bernie's luck shifts, so does the emphasis on lighting. A beautiful sunshiny day illuminates Bernie and Natalie's new found love. It's a wonderful compliment to the action, but not so overpowering that you feel as though you've been bludgeoned with the symbolism stick.

Overall, The Cooler was an immensely satisfying film. It's currently out on DVD if you missed it in the theaters and well worth the money to rent. We only had it for a weekend, so I didn't have time to explore any of the special features.

My next review: Runaway Jury

No comments: