The Cooler Movie (2003)

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The film title The Cooler (2003) is as icy as it gets, and as you will come to know, it’s all about a character who goes to great lengths to find luck, or rather, something other than bad luck. It’s often difficult to capture a pathetic face right to the core, but this film nearly got it in its portrayal of Bernie Lootz, played by William H. Macy, as a loser of losers. He is so pathetic that even Wiley Coyote seems to be best friends with lady luck. Bernie is so unlucky that even career losers would be confounded.

Worse, he can infect anyone around him with bad luck. Place him next to someone who lacks going for them, and that luck stop dead in its tracks. For this reason, the Shangri-La Casino makes an effort to have him work for them. He is what you would call their Cooler. When people start winning, all the casino’s manager Shelly Kaplow has to do is send in the cooler – Bernie.

Not sure whether coolers exist in real life –probably not, but we can’t tell. Ask anyone in Vegas whether they exist, and they are quick to distance themselves with the notion, but they do know that they exist. Casinos will do anything to have the edge over their customers, so it would not be a surprise.

Chicken and egg sort of thing come to mind, and you would be forgiven to argue that Wayne Kramer, director while making his feature film, was having a great time toying around with the idea.

Quick question: is the character’s lack of luck a result of depression, or is his self-worth being so low sound appalling? Anyway, you can’t deny that Bernie is one sad fellow, probably the saddest one is likely to come across. Shelly thinks of him as being walking kryptonite, but that changes later on in the film.

He finds love, and it comes in the form of a beautiful waitress named Natalie, played by Maria Bello. After the two become intimate, he starts to feel that things are changing for him in the luck department. The following day at work, his evil luck charm fails him. It comes at an inopportune time for the casino owner Shelly, who manages the casino is being questioned by the mob boss who intends to modernize the outfit.

Perhaps a favorite bit about the film is how Bernie wears the Loser title very well. However, as things change in the film, he resorts to gesticulating to mirror his character’s reaction. The other exciting bit is his relationship with Natalie, which has all the elements, including tenderness and eroticism. You are driven to believe in the two lovebirds because it is clear that they complete one another.
Other than its character and plot, the film is quite atmospheric, as it captures Vegas almost believable yet false glitz with the camera. There is a surprising frankness in the movie regarding the sexual life of the two characters and a few scenes shy of the R rating.

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