The Cooler

Director: Wayne Kramer
Screenwriters: Frank Hannah, Wayne Kramer

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


There is classicism in Wayne Kramer's The Cooler, a film that combines sensational performances and some modernist contradictions with a storytelling style reminiscent of Hollywood in the 1930s, that makes it one of the best love stories in years. Teetering between genre and realism, Kramer draws a picture of a place that deserves to be called the original sin city, home of the aging Shangri-La casino, living in the shadow of the new strip and its theme parks. It's a place where losers and winners play the hands that life has dealt them, fairly or not.

William H. Macy gives one of the standout performances of his career as Bernie Lootz, a guy whose luck is so bad that the casino calls him to rub up against hot players and cool them off, a task he's been performing for years to pay off a debt. Finally on the verge of getting out, he meets Natalie, an older but still attractive cocktail waitress (Maria Bello), and amazingly, they fall hard for each other. Suddenly, Bernie's luck changes, and his cooling talent stops working. But trouble is around the corner, and his old school boss, Shelly, superbly depicted by Alec Baldwin, is committed to keeping him around.

Sexy and rawly beautiful with wonderfully flawed characters and a transcendent denouement, The Cooler is an outstanding accomplishment that reminds us why we love film.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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