Although it’s not yet Thanksgiving, Love the Coopers has already thrown its hat into the ring for the competition of best Christmas picture of the holiday season. In the vein of Love Actually and the latest spate of Garry Marshall offerings, this film revolves around five initially disparate stories that become increasingly connected as the plot moves forward (and all of which are narrated by family-and-holiday movie vet Steve Martin). Married couple Charlotte and Sam (Diane Keaton and John Goodman) bring their cheeky niece Madison (Blake Baumgartner) and off-kilter, elderly Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) around with them on their Christmas errands, trying desperately to distract themselves from their impending marital separation. Their children are also in various states of emotional and psychological disarray: Son Hank (Ed Helms) is raising three kids in conjunction with his grating ex-wife Angie (Alex Borstein), while daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is a playwright who’s stuck in a rut and having an affair with a married doctor. Elsewhere on the family tree, Charlotte’s younger sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) is a life coach who can’t seem to figure out how to be happy, and their father Bucky (Alan Arkin) is forced to cope with the sudden departure of his favorite waitress and confidante (Amanda Seyfried) when the latter plans to restart her life in the town of Hot Coffee, MS. On top of all this, Hank’s son Bo (Maxwell Simkins) tries to buy a gift to help reunite his family before it comes apart at the seams, while his older brother Charlie (Timothee Chalamet), a painfully awkward teenager, nurses an intense crush on a classmate who works at the mall.
The fairly dense plot gives all of the characters a pretty even amount of screen time, which serves the movie well since it has an all-star cast. Wilde’s performance as an opinionated, self-destructive woman is heartfelt and fully realized, and her interactions with airport bar acquaintance-turned-fake boyfriend Bailey (Jake Lacy) provide some of the film’s most poignant moments. Seyfried’s portrayal is similarly compelling, as her platonic relationship with the older Arkin emerges as the most meaningful friendship in the entire movie. Accomplished stars Tomei and Goodman offer expected top-notch and grounded performances, as does Anthony Mackie in a smaller role as a troubled police officer who winds up crossing paths with Emma. Despite the occasional flourish of shaky, handheld camerawork, the cinematography is mostly appealing, and the look of the film will surely give viewers a genuine craving for hot cocoa. Love the Coopers evokes that sense of familial importance and bonding that the holidays symbolize, and in doing so, likely accomplishes its intended goal (not counting box-office numbers).
Yet the film can’t stop stepping on its own toes, as over-the-top plot points and moments of shameless melodrama undermine its attempts at depicting real human drama. The script is absent of any subtext, with low-grade psychological musings tossed around liberally. If you’re interested in learning what drives these characters, many of whom seem to be simply archetypes rather than recognizable human beings, fear not: Chances are they’ll proclaim it out loud, and then repeat it throughout the course of the movie (one scene between Emma and Charlotte over who is more afraid to take chances is particularly unbearable). Martin’s faux-pensive narration further exacerbates the film’s more treacly aspects, which, despite trying to engage audiences, might end up turning them off instead with their aggressiveness.
Love the Coopers’ heart is in the right place, and there are several moments that will certainly remind viewers of their own memorable holiday experiences (the film’s occasional use of flashbacks is especially adept). However, this movie is so desperate to gratify that it doesn’t leave any room for mystery, wonder, or intrigue. Absent of punctuation, the title itself eventually comes to represent a plea to the audience from the filmmakers themselves.
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- Released: 2015
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Although it’s not yet Thanksgiving, Love the Coopers has already thrown its hat into the ring for the competition of best Christmas picture of the holiday season. In the vein of Love Actually and the latest spate of Garry Marshall offerings, this film revo… (more)