aka Christmas With the Coopers
D: Jessie Nelson / 107m
Cast: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Marisa Tomei, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Alex Borstein, Timothée Chalamet, Maxwell Simkins, Blake Baumgartner, Steve Martin
It’s February, so what better time to watch a movie set at Xmas? Coming to Love the Coopers a couple of months or so after what would be deemed the best time to watch it, the first thing that comes to mind about the movie is that it didn’t have to be set at Xmas at all. As several branches of the same extended family all prepare to get together over the Yuletide period, it’s easy to see how this could have been set at Thanksgiving, or on an anniversary, or in the run up to a wedding (or even a funeral). The backdrop is just that: a backdrop, serviceable enough, but aside from the introduction of mistletoe to encourage some very sloppy kissing, there’s nothing about Love the Coopers that required it to be set at Xmas.
With that out of the way, the viewer can now sit back and enjoy the highly amusing interactions between the various members of the Cooper family, from acerbic patriarch Bucky (Arkin), to his uptight daughter Charlotte (Keaton) and her nearly estranged husband Sam (Goodman), and on down to their wayward daughter Eleanor (Wilde) who meets a soldier, Joe (Lacy), in an airport bar and persuades him to pose as her boyfriend. Then there’s Charlotte’s brother, Hank (Helms), who’s recently lost his job as an in-store photographer, and their sister, Emma (Tomei), who resorts to shoplifting as a way of getting Charlotte a present she’ll have to pretend to like. Oh, and then there’s diner waitress Ruby (Seyfried), whose friendship with Bucky might mean more to both of them than they’ll admit.
Wait, there was mention of “highly amusing interactions”. Well, that was probably the intention, but sadly, Steven Rogers’ screenplay forgot to include any appreciable laughs beyond the aforementioned sloppy kissing, and the tried and trusted use of inappropriate comments from a senior citizen with dementia, Sam’s Aunt Fishy (Squibb). Matters are made worse by the decision to include a narrator (Martin) who provides a running commentary on what’s happening, and what the characters are thinking, and who at the end, is revealed to be – well, let’s just say the narrator’s identity is meant to be whimsical and in some ways, cute, but it just goes to show how poorly constructed and thought out the whole thing is.
With the humour left somewhere behind in an earlier draft perhaps, the movie tries to make the most of a series of underwhelming dramatic scenarios, from the impending break up of Charlotte and Sam, to Hank’s inability to get a new job while keeping his recent unemployment a secret from everyone else, to Eleanor’s confusion over what sort of life she wants and whether or not she believes in love (yawn). Thanks again to Rogers’ screenplay though, the viewer will find these trials and tribulations having a minimal impact, and will most likely be checking their watch to see how much longer all these banal travails have got to continue.
Taking advantage of a Xmas metaphor, the movie is the equivalent of the Xmas roast that’s not been cooked properly. It’s dramatically turgid, unconvincing, and despite the incredibly talented cast (who are clearly wasted – and not in an alcoholic way; that might have been more interesting), never takes flight in the way that its makers probably intended. Quite why it was made is hard to work out, and it’s definitely a movie that you’ll only endure once, but if there’s one thing about it that can be used as a positive, it’s that – no, actually, there isn’t anything.
Rating: 3/10 – the dysfunctional American family coming together to feud and fuss with each other is a staple of US movie making, but Love the Coopers brings absolutely nothing new to the (Xmas) table; poor in every department, and one that its cast will probably want to forget, this is a movie that defies anyone to gain any kind of reward from it.