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Cookie (DVD Review)

23 May, 2010 By: Mike Clark

Available now via WBShop.com’s Warner Archive.
$19.95 DVD
Rated ‘R.’
Stars Peter Falk, Emily Lloyd, Dianne Wiest, Jerry Lewis.

No more — or less — than keenly cast goombah fluff that barely got a national release at the time, this reasonably cute trifle didn’t just predate “The Sopranos” by a full decade in its portrayal of hoods at home. It even opened before Warner, almost exactly a year later, unveiled Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas to instant classic status.

As such, even the minor mob thunder it had has since been stolen from Cookie’s premise and packaging, though not even Goodfellas can claim the appearance of Scorsese’s The King of Comedy co-star as the only Jewish guy in the joint. That’s right: Here’s Jerry Lewis as a shady developer named Arnold Ross, mixing it up mostly harmoniously (money is money) with “the boys.” As Bobby Helms’ 1957 Yuletide perennial “Jingle Bell Rock” plays in the background, Jer also utters some dialogue not exactly out of Sailor Beware or The Patsy: “I go to the tanning salon maybe 2-3 times a week. Chicks like that.” Also, presumably, laaaaaay-dees.

The focus, however, is on Cookie (onetime critics’ darling Emily Lloyd, who never caught on with a wider public) and her father. Played by Peter Falk, he’s a model prisoner just out of the can after 13 years and about to find out that he’s been financially “taken” by his former partner (Michael V. Gazzo, speaking, as always, in a kind the wheeze that makes fellow supporting player Lionel Stander seem half-healthy).

Cookie (along with an equally scruffy pal played by Rikki Lake) has been arrested for jumping subway turnstiles — yet, belligerent mouth aside, isn’t in what anyone could call a serious state of late adolescent rebellion. While dad decides what to do, she goes to work in the Gazzo character’s not overly oppressive sweatshop, where she learns to sew fake Calvin Klein labels on jeans.

The script is by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen, who previously penned the wonderful screenplay for 1983’s Meryl Streep-Cher-Kurt Russell Silkwood, directed by Mike Nichols. You would not know it here. This is a movie carried almost completely by its cast, though it has minor helpings of the low-key breeziness director Susan Seidelman brought to her 1985 sleeper hit Desperately Seeking Susan (though hopefully, I’m not alone in thinking that her flop John Malkovich follow-up Making Mr. Right was the much funnier movie).

As a Dominick everyone calls “Dino,” Falk fathered Cookie with his longtime mistress (Dianne Wiest, seen here between her two Woody Allen Oscars for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway). His nominal wife, ignorant of the union and always perplexed about Cookie’s identity, is played in full harridan style by Brenda Vaccaro and with a voice that could make the paint fall off your stretch limo. This, by the way, seems to be the vehicle of choice here, though one not easy to maneuver during those 180-degree turns during some boilerplate New Jersey chase scenes.

For bent subtext, Martin and Lewis fans get to hear Lewis call Falk “Dino” a couple times, and there’s also Bob Gunton (the warden in The Shawshank Reunion) cast this time as a Fed with gubernatorial ambitions. Cookie may be one of Warner’s DVD-R titles geared to on-demand requests, but there’s nothing wrong with its 1.85 presentation. In the movie’s previous home market incarnation, the company didn’t even bother to letterbox the laserdisc version, which it almost always did with applicable titles.

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