December 08, 2003 12:00 PM

DRAMA

William H. Macy, Maria Bello, Alec Baldwin

The name itself is comically pathetic: Bernie Lootz. No guy with a handle like that will ever be a winner and, so far, Bernie (Macy), the hero of this winsome story, has lived up to his moniker. Divorced, he putters about in a shabby motel apartment in Las Vegas. At work at a casino, his job is to spread his inherent bad luck around. If a gambler is winning, Bernie strolls past and-presto-the fellow’s streak is over. That is until Bernie falls in love with a cocktail waitress (Bello) and she with him. His aura of lousy luck deserts him, threatening his continued employment.

The Cooler is a congenial little movie that’s easy to warm to, and it gets the underside of Vegas’s glitter. Macy, all wistful eyes and slumping posture, makes a perfect sad sack, and there’s solid supporting work by Bello and Baldwin, who plays Macy’s boss. (R)

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