Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #64

The actor:John Magaro
The character:Cookie Figowitz
The film:First Cow
The line: “Some people can’t imagine being stolen from.”

Two (three? who can tell) directors have accounted for the four best westerns in American film this century. The Coen Brothers have both westerns represented on this list already. Kelly Reichardt, whose Meek’s Cutoff remains a revelation, is the other. Where the Coens have transplanted the criminal enterprises of their early work (Blood Simple, Miller’s Crossing, even Raising Arizona) into True Grit and throughout the majority of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Reichardt is doing something entirely different with her westerns. Meek’s Cutoff is a dry-throated thriller, quietly coughing its way to a world paved more wisely by women than men. First Cow, which introduced clafoutis to a nation desperately seeking a new brunch standard, is about the ways that established capital crushes organic, if vaguely unsavory, small business. It’s like Portland after Portlandia.

“Some people can’t imagine being stolen from” is a counterintuitive line. Given their obsession with safes and Caribbean tax havens, it seems like the rich have a great fear of losing their money in any way. Given what happens to Cookie and Lu at the end of the movie, there’s a good argument to be made that Cookie’s observation is limited because it doesn’t account for what happens when those people discover that they’re being stolen from. But the bastic truth of what Cookie says, the observation that no one seems to ask where the milk for the baked goods comes from even though it’d have to be obvious to anyone who thought about it for even a moment, is the echo of a novel that takes place more than a century after the events of First Cow.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy,” Nick tells us in the last couple pages of The Great Gatsby. Wealth, especially the wealth that the Chief Factor can boast—that is, wealth that sends the mind of a prole reeling with how impossible it would be for himself—comes with carelessness. Cookie and Lu’s oily cakes baffle the Chief Factor; he does not expect them. And by not expecting them, the wool is pulled over his eyes; he asks for a clafoutis before he asks the question of where the milk for these oily cakes must have come from. Daisy never asks where Jay Gatsby comes from, even though his sudden accession to massive wealth is as unexplainable as the oily cakes in unsettled Oregon.

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