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THE COOLER, 2003
Starring: William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin, Shawn Hatosy, Ron Livingston, Paul Sorvino, Estella Warren
The unluckiest man in Vegas - a guy whose bad luck is contagious - is used by the last of the old time mob run casinos to kill high rollers' action. That is, until he falls in love with a cocktail waitress and gets "lady luck," which throws the situation into reverse. Things turn nasty when the casino director tries to break up the romance.
The thing that stands out from this film is its musical score by Mark Isham. It's a score that I can't remember ever being so unique as this one. It's a bit overwhelming to the story as the score isn't supposed to drive the film but just guide it. A good score to most director's point of view is supposed to be there to push the story along but never there to attempt to manipulate the audience to feel something they want them to feel. To some, a good score shouldn't even be remembered except for those epic type of moments ala Star Wars and Rocky that set up a climatic moment in the next scenes. But the score in THE COOLER seems to break all the rules, and it works.
The score works because it does two things at the same time for the overall theme of the film. THE COOLER is about how the new generation is taking over the old generation. And Las Vegas is the background to that theme. The more PG-13 world of Vegas is taking over the old R-rated world. The corporations have come in and bought the many casino properties and the old gangster/mafia run places are being driven out. Corporations want the parents to bring their kids too on their vacation trip to Vegas whereas the gangsters just wanted the parents. This is a case where the new generation is taking over from a tried and true system that was very successful. So the thinking of the old school is why change what already works. The if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it theory. But as what happens in life, evolution takes fold and change just occurs.
A parallel is today's world of the technology boom. The baby boomers in charge of today's current world don't see why the world of the Industrial industry of doing things needs to change. Their thinking is that things worked a lot better back in the old days. So why change? Because life is set up for drastic change, that's why.
So the score is brilliant because it's old school jazz but it also has this unique new school flare to it. So while we're taken through the story, we always get reminded of two worlds crossing each other at the same time. And that's what you call fantastic storytelling. Two feelings of setting happening at the same time.
Think of the character Alec Baldwin plays. He's part of the old school way of thinking. His rational to killing one of his lounge singers is because the guy just doesn't fit within today's world. His act has aged and people want to see new singers. So most people would just force the guy into retirement and let him live his last years. But this character thinks that what you do for a living is the only thing that you are. So as soon as his singing career is over, his life is over. And when he explains to another character as to why he killed him, his point of view makes a lot of sense.
If you're paying attention, you know from the start that Baldwin's character is doomed. Corporations will take over and he must either change to their ways or else. And a guy like that just isn't going to change.
The question throughout THE COOLER is whether Bernie Lootz is going to change. A guy who believes in his own bad luck. He's the main character that we follow and really like from the start. Audiences tend to like hard on their luck kind of people. Either because they are like that themselves, no matter how much they are going to deny it. Or, they just feel sorry for people like that and want them to succeed and get out of their rut.
And throughout the film, this score is humming. This is one of those films where you can actually turn off the visuals and just listen, and you'll still have an enjoyable time. And that's a very rare feat.
I really enjoyed THE COOLER. I think more films with this theme should be made because it's exactly what this world is going through now in so many fields.