Cookie's Fortune

The prevalent theme throughout Cookie's Fortune is that of love, both familial and communal. The small town of Holly Springs provides an excellent setting for the story to transpire. Even though everyone knows each other in this typical small Southern town, the story mainly concentrates on a small group of friends and relatives. The film's title character, Jewel "Cookie" Mae, is the sweet old town matriarch who suffers from the loss of her husband. This is demonstrated to the viewer early on when Cookie is reminded of her husband Buck by his gun collection. The guns are a unique symbol of death as they represent both his death and the impending death of Cookie. She cannot bear to continue living alone and decides to kill herself with one of her husband's guns, the "peacemaker." This is symbolic of the peace she seeks in heaven, mentioning a calm passage on a "golden boat with golden wings."

Obviously, those closest to her are deeply affected by her death. Her caretaker and close friend Willis is perhaps the most devastated. The viewer sees their close connection even though it is only briefly presented when Willis comes into her house at one o'clock in the morning to clean her late husband's guns. They engage in a friendly squabble over past experiences, which they keep track of through a scoring system. They are both lonely, but find solace in each other and help each other survive. Other than Cookie, all Willis really has is a bottle to keep him company. Their love is consecrated through bonds of long-lasting friendship.

The only person that seems out of the loop in the town is Camille Dixon. She is cruel and heartless, which does not fit into the small town schema of compassion and friendship. She happens to be first upon the grisly scene of Cookie's suicide. Instead of being horrified, she is only momentarily shocked. She then chastises the corpse for being selfish, screaming that only crazy people kill themselves and that is was disgraceful for anyone in the family to do so, seeing as how she is Cookie's niece. When her sister Cora walks in on the scene, Camille eats the suicide note and tells the dim-witted Cora that Cookie was murdered. This is all in the name of saving face because she has it in her mind that the only important thing is not Cookie's final words, but retaining the family's elite heritage. Just as Cora is ignorant, or at least pretends to be, Camille maintains a vibrant Southern tradition of arrogance as well as ignorance. She does not care at all about Cookie or the feelings of those close to her, but only her own reputation.

Due to Camille's cover-up, Willis is accused of murdering Cookie. However, everyone in the town, even the police, is confident that he did not kill her. But since he was in her house the night before, his fingerprints are all over relevant objects such as the door and guns. Therefore the sheriff is forced to incarcerate him. Everyone suspects something is amiss, especially Emma, Cora's daughter, who takes it upon herself to stay with Willis in his jail cell until the situation is resolved. Perhaps the closest bond in the movie is between Cookie, Willis, and Emma, even though the latter two share minimal screen time with the former. This further demonstrates the love between them. Willis is family to both the women even though, being black, it is assumed he is not a literal relative. It is later revealed that he is actually a member of the family, but at that juncture the point is negligible.

Like Willis, most of the town's residents are simple people who enjoy a simplistic life. This is not to say they are dumb, but it gives them a sense of cohesion and a relaxed attitude – something that Camille does not embody. This suggests something about love triumphing over the intolerance of the old south. This is further paralleled by the running sub-plot throughout the movie of the town's Easter play production of Salome. Much like the death of St. John the Baptist at the hands of the Romans, Cookie suffers at the hands of Camille. And much like the play, the town's unity is comparable to the bond of the actors on stage.

The connections between the play, town, and family run deep. They each represent a community that lives and breathes together and thrives off of each other. When the group is deprived of an essential element, it is not possible for them to disregard the void left without considerable reappraisal of their once comfortable and familiar situation. They must pick up the pieces of their shattered lives and collect themselves into an even tighter knit group to deal with the loss. Cookie's Fortune is a comment on intolerance but, despite this somewhat heavy theme, the movie maintains a lighthearted feel that suggests something about the triumph of love.