A tale of three couples who may or may not be destined to stay together, “Fortune Cookie” is an uncommonly well-written and well-acted pic that offers unexpectedly astute insights on what men and women want from relationships. Though there’s nary a known name in the cast, this indie charmer and festival crowd-pleaser could see theatrical life in limited release and should certainly garner work for helmer Clay Essig and scribe Rob Thomas.
The three very different couples cross paths one night in an upscale Chinese restaurant. Opening reel gives a bit of back story on each person that raises the stakes for the various dates. Good-natured but geeky Heath (Matt Barker) is dining with his prom date, the WASPy blond cheerleader Doug (Rachel Kimsey), who accepted Heath’s invitation only to make her ex-boyfriend jealous. Meanwhile, Doug’s independent-minded mother, Carolyn (Terra Allen), is out with her longtime beau, Dean (Douglas Caputo), who plans to propose. Across the room, Heath’s slightly jaded older sister, Beth (Brandy Snow), resists the slick come-on of Trent (Christopher Marley), a good-looking DJ she met in her book club.
Interestingly, and quite effectively, each of the characters has flaws that offset his or her assets: Heath is naive; Doug, arrogant; Carolyn, overly self-sufficient; Dean, blindly romantic, and so on. But each, too, is redeemed by having a kind heart. The interplay of those qualities, both within the characters’ psyches and between the couples, makes for an evening full of surprises, especially given that the restaurant boasts a wordsmith who writes each diner a clever, personalized fortune cookie.
Intercut with the dating scenes are individual talking-head monologues that each character delivers to camera. These bits feel stiff and calculated in what is otherwise a charming, articulate and likable movie.