Before 1980 or so, every holiday movie was about the power of the season to heal wounds, bring kith and kin together and restore a sense of magic to our jaded, modern lives.
The 400-Word Review: Love the Coopers
By Sean Collier
November 17, 2015
After 1980 or so, every holiday movie has been about the power of the season to heal wounds, bring kith and kin together and restore a sense of magic to our jaded, modern lives — while paying lip service to a deconstruction of that same seasonal spirit.
Love the Coopers is no exception. Yes, it has moments that reject commercialism and mock the thoughtless embrace of yuletide traditions. Fundamentally, though, it’s a tale about a fractured family as they travel to a Christmas dinner. What — do you think they’re going to end up hating each other?
Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) are deciding how to announce their pending divorce to the clan. Son Hank (Ed Helms) is hiding his extended unemployment from his extended family. Daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) can’t face her mother’s disapproval and enlists uniformed stranger Joe (Jake Lacy) to portray a boyfriend. Sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) indulges in some light shoplifting, leading to a therapy session in the back seat of Officer Williams’ (Anthony Mackie) squad car. And patriarch Bucky (Alan Arkin) is mostly getting by on the platonic affections of his favorite waitress, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried).
To be fair: That’s a hell of a cast, and I omitted another Oscar nominee (June Squibb) and an unbilled megastar who serves as the narrator. Everyone named above and plenty of others approach Love the Coopers earnestly and openly, fumbling at essential truths about family, disappointment and uncertainty.
It’s just not that good. Some plots resonate much more than others; the romance between Eleanor and Joe is charming, but the problems between Charlotte and Sam are undercooked. The holiday trappings are cloying — Love the Coopers might’ve been better at any other time of year — and several of the threads are plain uninteresting. And to describe the rushed conclusion as inelegant would be kind.
Love the Coopers is never truly bad. The pleasures of undeniable talents such as Keaton, Goodman and Arkin — not to mention some of the most gifted twentysomethings in Hollywood — are very real. It’s not worth the price of a ticket, but you’ll certainly lose an hour to it on cable TV on some future Christmas Eve.
My Rating: 5/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark