The Cooler

Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy

Directed by Wayne Kramer
Rolling Stone: star rating
5 3.5
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
November 20, 2003

As the year-end big guns open fire with hype to catch Oscar's attention, an indie gem like The Cooler has to hustle just to stay in the game. So keep an eye out. It's a winner.

William H. Macy gives one of his best performances as Bernie Lootz, a Vegas gambler with a knack for losing. His casino-manager pal Shelly (Alec Baldwin) hires him as a cooler, a "piece of walking Kryptonite" who can jinx a high roller just by sitting next to him.

Then Bernie's luck changes. He meets Natalie (Maria Bello), a cocktail waitress who beds him with grab-ass vigor. Bello breaks through as an actress of dazzle and depth. And Macy makes Bernie's sexual awakening a joy to behold. In an unrated version of the film shown at Sundance, the actors showed — yikes! — pubic hair. To earn an R rating, all things pubic had to go. No matter. Hollywood hypocrisy can't kill the killer rapport between Macy and Bello, who turn The Cooler into an indelibly funny and heartfelt love story.

Wayne Kramer, who co-wrote the scrappy script with Frank Hannah, makes a potent directing debut and strikes gold with the cast, including Paul Sorvino as a junkie lounge singer and Ron Livingston as the corporate voice of the new Las Vegas, a theme-park nightmare.

Top of the line is Baldwin, whose revelatory portrayal of an old Vegas hard-liner in thrall to the town's faded allure is the stuff Oscars are made of. From James Whitaker's seductive camerawork to Mark Isham's lush score, The Cooler places all the smart bets and hits the jackpot.

Movie Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More

    Movie Reviews

    More Reviews »
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Road to Nowhere”

    Talking Heads | 1985

    A cappella harmonies give way to an a fuller arrangement blending pop and electro-disco on "Road to Nowhere," but the theme remains constant: We're on an eternal journey to an undefined destination. The song vaulted back into the news a quarter century after it was a hit when Gov. Charlie Crist used it in his unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida. "It's this little ditty about how there's no order and no plan and no scheme to life and death and it doesn't mean anything, but it's all right," Byrne said with a chuckle.

    More Song Stories entries »