Film Review: ‘Love the Coopers’

love-the-coopers
Courtesy of CBS Films

This slushy holiday dramedy follows a familiar family-reunion template.

Fittingly given that its title sounds like a demand, “Love the Coopers” peddles holiday sorrow, cheer and uplift with off-putting insistence. Director Jessie Nelson’s dramedy follows a familiar family-reunion template in detailing the Yuletide get-together of the Coopers, a clan fracturing under the weight of divorces, unemployment, unrealized dreams and loneliness — as well as past joys that all its members desperately want to reclaim. Decked out in the usual tinsel-and-mistletoe trappings, the film lurches awkwardly between gloominess and giddiness, never hitting the boisterously bittersweet groove it seeks. Failing to carve out an identity distinct from its many subgenre predecessors, this slushy feel-good saga faces a stormy theatrical forecast at best.

Ten years after “The Family Stone,” Diane Keaton again takes the lead of a contrived getting-the-relatives-back-together film that eventually employs the threat of tragedy as a device for familial reconciliation. Before “Love the Coopers” ventures down that misbegotten path, however, it first delineates the problems of its various interconnected players. Front and center are Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman), who, after 40 years of marriage, still dress in matching flannel outfits (hers, in typical Keaton fashion, buttoned to the top). Identical style choices aside, however, they’ve grown so far apart that they’ve agreed to separate — a decision driven by Charlotte’s interest in fixating on her kids at the expense of Sam’s long-coveted trip to Africa. Their estrangement is also related to the fact that, years earlier, Charlotte and Sam lost a young child, though it’s indicative of Steven Rogers’ scattershot and superficial script that said catastrophe is mentioned only in passing, and seems a mere afterthought amid the more pressing crises at hand.

Those involve Charlotte and Sam’s son Hank (Ed Helms), a despondent mall photographer who can’t find a new job and is divorcing his wife Angie (Alex Borstein); and their daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), a failed playwright who’s carrying on an affair with a married man and would prefer to spend Christmas Eve anywhere other than at her parents’ house. At an airport bar, she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), a young soldier whose religious Republicanism becomes the immediate butt of liberal Eleanor’s cringe-worthy jokes, but whose earnest demeanor and big smile quickly prove irresistible. In no time, Eleanor is introducing Joe to her own god (Nina Simone) and convincing him — since a blizzard has grounded his deployment flight — to come home with her and pose as her boyfriend.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) — who, ridiculously, is meant to be only a few years Charlotte’s junior, despite the actresses’ 19-year age difference — is arrested for trying to shoplift a brooch in her mouth. In the back of the squad car of police officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), she sets about giving the “robotic” cop some therapist-y advice, which causes Williams, in one of the film’s innumerable implausible developments, to open up about his homosexuality and the disapproving mother who drove him to live life in the closet. Williams is simply a mechanism designed to help Emma learn that she’s not alone, and moreover, that she can turn herself into the person she’s always wanted to be. That makes him about as one-dimensional as the memory-addled Aunt Fishy (June Squibb), who orbits the Coopers like a comic-relief clown programmed only to make funny faces at the dog and, in the story’s nadir, to expel a rancid fart during Christmas dinner grace.

If that weren’t enough, Charlotte and Emma’s father, Bucky (Alan Arkin), is heartbroken when he learns that his favorite diner waitress, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) — with whom he shares a platonic quasi-romantic relationship — is intent on skipping town. Such news compels Bucky and Ruby to rail at each other with the same type of blunt-force honesty that characterizes Charlotte and Sam’s contentious rapport. Their no-holds-barred candor soon comes to typify just about every utterance heard in “Love the Coopers,” including the constant narration provided by the family dog, Rags (voiced by Steve Martin), which is so Hallmark-card corny that it sabotages any sense of emotional authenticity or maturity.

An overstuffed turkey about shedding lies and embracing who you are and how you feel, Nelson’s film courts cheap nostalgic pathos via clips from “City Lights” and “Born Yesterday.” It also intersperses its action with brief flashbacks to memories — of carefree excitement, of blissful togetherness, of departed loved ones — that continue to haunt these characters. When coupled with Charlotte and Sam’s ongoing discussion-cum-argument over how they drifted apart, “Love the Coopers” occasionally appears on the verge of ditching its more cloying tendencies and transforming into a thoughtful meditation on how the holidays serve as a time to reflect on and reconnect with family, love and those cherished people and moments (big and small) that once brought such happiness.

Unfortunately, Rogers’ tale is far less concerned with such issues than with tidily pairing off its forlorn single characters and reuniting its betrothed ones — all of which comes about during a climax set at a hospital that’s shameless in its heartstring tugging. In the process of advancing plot threads to their telegraphed conclusions, the film strands its actors with little to do but bicker, pout, grin and swoon with metronomic predictability. Undermined by an unfocused story that can barely even tell us about these individuals’ deep-seated hang-ups, much less adequately dramatize them, Keaton, Goodman, Helms, Wilde, Arkin, Seyfried, Tomei and Mackie merely coast by on charisma. Similarly functional, Elliot Davis’ sweeping camerawork around twinkling Christmas-decorated sets fails to energize the hectic proceedings, while the soundtrack, mixing Bob Dylan and Sting tunes with traditional seasonal classics, would be right at home at a Starbucks.

Film Review: ‘Love the Coopers’

Reviewed at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, New York, Nov. 10, 2015. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production

A CBS Films release and presentation of an Imagine Entertainment, Groundswell Films and Handwritten Films production. Produced by Michael London, Jessie Nelson, Janice Williams. Executive producers, Kim Roth, Anna Culp, Ted Gidlow, Steven Rogers, Diane Keaton. Co-producers, Robin Fisichella, Marsha L. Swinton.

Crew

Directed by Jessie Nelson. Screenplay, Steven Rogers. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Elliot Davis; editor, Nancy Richardson; music, Nick Urata; production designer, Beth Rubino; art director, Gregory A. Weimerskirch; set decorator, Paul Cheponis; costume designer, Hope Hanafin; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Jim Emswiller; supervising sound editor, Ron Bochar; re-recording mixer, Ron Bochar; special effects coordinator, Raymond M. Tasillo; visual effects, Method Studios, Shade VFX, Phosphene, the Molecule; stunt coordinators, Stephen Pope, Steve Davison, Peter Epstein; assistant director, Darin Rivetti; casting, Mary Vernieu, Venus Kanani.

With

Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Alex Borstein, Jake Lacy. Voice: Steve Martin.

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  1. cate says:

    Aww, it’s not that bad. Have a little Christmas charity. Liked the Pittsburgh setting anyway.

  2. Becky Turner says:

    This movie is bad, bad, bad. Dysfunctional, disgusting. Not what people need to see or hear at this time in our world. Sex seems to be the topic of the whole movie.The remark about the Christmas song with the Lord and come let us adore him. She makes a derogatory remark! Shame on her.

  3. Vogue says:

    Love the Cooper

    The movie was good for the Holidays. Please provide more information about their wardrobes, designers and maybe add some story boards for Love the Coopers and other movies. Naomi Chisley

    There will be more to talk about and write about.

  4. Gabriel says:

    You beat me to the punch with the Diane Keaton tie-in with “The Family Stone” I still love D.K., but it sadly looks as if she isn’t even trying anymore. And poor John Goodman and Alan Arkin fared so much better in “Argo”. Amanda Seyfried, after the fiasco that was “The Big Wedding” (also with Keaton), I would think you would want to stay away from these ensemble trainwrecks. And poor June Squibb is saddled with the type of role that Shelley Winters used to play in her sleep. Oops, I just yawned.

  5. Mary says:

    The most boring movie! The dialog is pathetic. I felt sorry for the actors who r all so talented that they went through this awful movie.

  6. Dave Damusis says:

    I have 3 basic ratings for movies. 1-Left the movie with more than I came in with. 2-Watching the movie Left me in moved and unimpressed. No change in my state of mind. 3-Exited the screening early or left disappointed because move left me with less than I entered with. I rate this movie with a 1. Felt good after watching it and would recommend to others. Rate it an 8 on IMDB.

    • Sanman$ says:

      When I don’t like a movie This time of the year I give it a lump of coal. And I’m giving this bomb 4 lumps of coal.

  7. sanman$ says:

    What’s next, the Diane Keaton bag lady line of clothing? I mean like who dresses her & does she get her clothes from a good will dumpster? She’s worth 35 million & still dresses like a HOMELESS LADY.

  8. Cindy says:

    Worst movie I have ever waisted my money on.

  9. Steven says:

    In my opinion, way too dark for a Christmas movie. Save your money.

  10. sanman$ says:

    What’s to love about this movie?

  11. Sanman$ says:

    The next house Diane Keaton flips will be a nursing home.

  12. Sanman$ says:

    Hate the Coopers

  13. Paul Brno says:

    Diane Keaton is 19 years older than Marisa Tomai so how can they possibly be sisters? When Diane Keaton is old enough to be Marisa Tomai’s Grand Mother,

  14. Sanman1 says:

    Should be called, “The Coopers Christmas At The Nursing Home Movie”! think about it….food for thought.

  15. Eager Steeped says:

    What rubbish… total and complete trash… garbage…

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