Cookie

From an early age, I watched Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert do their movie reviews on TV.  From their time on Chicago’s PBS station, to national syndication…I always watched them.  In 1987, I remember seeing them praise a British film called “Wish You Were Here.”  To this day I still haven’t seen that film, but the clips Gene and Roger showed were enough to inspire a teenage crush on the film’s young leading lady, actress Emily Lloyd.  Though she has continued to work in the years since, she has not made as big a splash as she did with that first performance.  Her first US production was Susan Seidelman’s 1989 film “Cookie.”  It was not a success, despite featuring another great performance by Lloyd.

Lloyd plays Cookie, the daughter of mobster Dino Capisco (Peter Falk) who has been in prison for 13 years.  She hasn’t seen him since she was five years old.  Cookie’s mother is Dino’s mistress, Lenore (Diane Wiest).  Lenore longs for a normal family life with Dino, despite the fact that he remains in his arranged mobland marriage to his wife Bunny (Brenda Vacarro).  Cookie is a smart teenager who appears to have gotten her duds when they sold off the wardrobe from “Desperately Seeking Susan” (which was also directed by Seidleman).  When she and a friend (a brief appearance by Ricki Lake) are arrested for jumping subway turnstiles, Dino steps back into her life.  His mob lawyer manages to get the charges dropped and Cookie goes to work.  At first she starts working for Dino’s former mob partner, Carmine (Michael V. Gazzo).  But when Dino learns that Carmine has been stealing money from him while in prison, Cookie becomes Dino’s driver and assists her father with his plans to get back what is his.

I gotta admit, I struggle a bit with movies about mobsters.  The suits…the hair…the pinkie rings the size of Buicks…it all looks so ridiculous.  I mean, I’ve never lived in a world where people actually look like this, and I guess I should be glad about that.  Though this is not a hard-edged gangster flick…nobody gets their head in a vice or anything like that…it’s not really a comedy either.  But the performances of both Lloyd and Falk make the movie enjoyable.  It does, however, take a while to warm up to them in these roles, depending on your knowledge of the performers.  I most think of Falk as lovable TV detective Columbo, so to see him as a gangster peppering his speech with F-bombs take some adjustment.  Likewise, knowing that Lloyd has a strong British accent, it takes awhile to accept her as a New Yorker.  But in the end, she does succeed and manages to make a somewhat unpleasant character downright adorable.

Where the movie falls short is in the story department.  The whole revenge plot is necessary to move things forward…I get that.  But there was so much potential to develop the father/daughter relationship that just doesn’t happen.  Falk and Lloyd share many scenes, but there is no depth to them.  Cookie goes from absolutely hating the father who has been absent for most of her life, to being a willing accomplice in plotting his revenge.  She’s not motivated by a connection with her father, she’s simply intrigued with his world.  When the two do end up having a “moment” of sorts toward the end of the film, it’s tacked on.  As if they filmmakers realized on the last day of shooting that they’d done nothing to develop this father/daughter relationship that is supposedly the centerpiece of the film.

Still, the movie is worth a look for Lloyd’s performance, if nothing else.  It’s the stuff teenage crushes are made of…I should know.

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