"Find hungry samurai" -Gisaku

THE COOLER

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor; Alec Baldwin

Luck be a lady tonight

Luck be a lady tonight

Luck if you've ever been a lady to begin with

Luck be a lady tonight

Luck let a gentleman see

Just how nice a dame you can be

I know the way you've treated other guys you've been with

Luck be a lady with me

A lady never leaves her escort

It isn't fair, it isn't nice

A lady doesn't wander all over the room

And blow on some other guys dice

Let’s keep this party polite

Never get out of my sight

Stick with me baby, I'm the guy that you came in with

Luck be a lady tonight

-from Luck Be a Lady Tonight

The Cooler is a film about the mythology of Luck. I have written before that Luck is something that no matter how logical we are, we believe in (yes, Bear; even you). You can go on and on about random chance and free-throw statistics, but deep down we’ve all felt both Good and Bad Luck. Call it out brains’ inability to process the world of pure chance. Whatever; we all believe in Luck.

Nowhere is this more in evidence than in Vegas, the King of the Lucky streak. Our scene is the Shangri-La, an Old School Vegas casino, the last of a dying breed. While the new Vegas is Pirates and Pyramids and Family Fun, this is the Vegas in its hey-day, the town of Frank, Dean, and every Mobster with a dream.

The Shangri-La is run by Shelly (Alec Baldwin, who was nominated), who is so old-fashioned that he employs Bernie as a “Cooler,” a man with such bad luck that to be near him is to catch it. Bernie walks around the casino, called to tables where men are winning. Bernie has merely to sit there for a minute, place a bet, or even just touch the cards, and instantly the luck runs cold.

Bernie is played by William H. Macy, who never does anything but quality work (truly an unsung hero in Hollywood). He imbues his character with a sad-sack Everyman appeal, but also with a quiet dignity.

Then Bernie falls in love with Natalie, played by Maria Bello. Where has this woman been all my life? Natalie is an almost too-beautiful cocktail waitress, but with a worn, hard look to her features. It’s hard to explain this, but it makes her even more appealing. To me, this is what Lady Luck herself would look like.

I promise you I’m not giving anything away here to tell you that once Bernie falls in love his luck obviously changes, as does his “cooling” powers. What do you think an Old School casino boss would do then?

This movie sets the right tone; sad and elegiac, and very beautiful. It’s a bit Film-Noire, a bit Fairy-Tale, and a bit Romance. You may see the con coming, you may not, but that’s hardly the point. You watch The Cooler to see life, to see love, to see Luck, as everyone does what they can to grab it.

This is a very adult film. There are sex scenes here that feel very real (not pornography real, but actual people real, if you follow me). There are some violence and tense moments too. This won’t be for everybody. But if you can handle it, what a gem of a film.

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