Kyle J. Steenblik

Love the Coopers is Unremarkable, but Enjoyable

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love_the_coopers_ver2_xlgLove the Coopers
Directed by: Jessie Nelson
Written by: Steven Rogers
Starring: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde
Narrated by Steve Martin
Running time 106 minutes
Rated PG – 13 for thematic elements, language and some sexuality
3 1/2 stars out of 5

Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam Cooper’s (John Goodman) marriage is on the verge of ending, but they have agreed to keep this from their kids until after Christmas, Charlotte hoping for one last perfect holiday.  Hank Cooper (Ed Helms) has been out of work for months now, but has kept this secret from his ex wife, Angie (Alex Borstein), and parents.  Hank and Angie’s children Charlie (Timothée Chalamet), Bo (Maxwell Simkins) and Madison (Blake Baumgartner) are doing their best bouncing between parents while keeping their fathers secret.  Bucky “grandpa” Cooper (Alan Arkin) has been enjoying his time eating in the same diner every day, just to see his favorite waitress, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), but doesn’t take the news of her leaving town well.  Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), is arrested on Christmas Eve for deciding to shoplift an expensive gift for her sister, but is given a new outlook on life due to a police-car therapy session with Officer William (Anthony Mackie).  Meanwhile Hank’s sister Eleanor Cooper (Olivia Wilde) has decided to bring home a stand-in boyfriend, a stranded US Army soldier Joe (Jake Lacy), just to avoid her mother’s look of disappointment.  When they all come together on Christmas Eve the complicated history of family, and a few unexpected and unlikely events turn everything upside down.

Love the Coopers is a new Christmas movie with old themes and formulas, but in different wrapping paper.  There are a few themes and moments that break away from the same old thing we have seen year after year.  These moments and elements are commendable, and made this film ultimately enjoyable for me.  I am not a fan of Christmas or holiday movies, I find them too sappy and predictable.  While this film does not avoid these two points, at times, the sappiness is almost unbearable; however, the theme with this film seems to be to counter the sap with some of the more bitter moments of life.  The palatability, and ultimately the effectiveness of these scenes is going to vary greatly depending on the viewers own life experience, empathy can only take you so far.

To talk about what was actually good in this film I will have to go into what could be considered spoilers.  To put your mind at ease, if you are concerned, the predictability of this film means I won’t tell you anything you couldn’t have guessed by the trailer.  There are a few scenes that I found heartbreakingly genuine.  One of those was when Sam, John Goodman’s character, is helping Madison, his granddaughter, in a bathroom, and he begins to talk to her very frankly about his wife simply not loving him anymore.  Another would be Hank, Ed Helms’ character, admitting to his grandfather, Bucky, why his marriage failed, or when Bucky, Alan Arkin’s character, finally told Ruby how he saw, and felt about her.  The saddest part about this movie is that not all of these great moments really fit into the film they were making.  The holiday theme felt superimposed, which gave everything an air of artificiality.

I will maintain that in spite of its flaws, Love the Coopers is one of the best family Christmas comedies we have had in years.  I do wish that category was populated with better films, until then, this film will do.

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