Genre: Comedy, Family
Director: Jessie Nelson
Cast: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde
Release Date: November 13th, 2015
For all of its obvious faults (and there are plenty of them), information pills Love the Coopers offers one valuable lesson. When a police officer is advising an unrepentant thief in the film, page he offers this advice: “Try and be the person you want to become.” It’s a strong lesson that rings surprisingly true in a film that is surprisingly terrible. The screenwriters should’ve taken their own advice and tried to make a comedy that reached for great heights, doctor rather than settling for a film that falls on its face.
Love the Coopers is an ensemble holiday comedy that relies on formulaic storylines and tropes to tell the story of a family coming together for Christmas.
Sam and Charlotte, the patriarch and matriarch of the family (played respectively by John Goodman and Diane Keaton), are struggling in their marriage while still trying to hold it together for the holidays. The couple want to separate partly because years earlier, a long-promised trip to Africa never came to fruition building a wedge between them. Instead of being honest about their marital troubles though, the couple wants to hide their strife behind a façade of happiness.
It’s a family tradition.
The couple’s divorced son Hank (Ed Helms) can’t afford Christmas presents for his children because he lost his job. He’s unwilling to admit that to his wife. Hank’s sister Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is so afraid of her mother’s judgement that she asks a soldier (Jake Lacy) to pose as her fiancé for Christmas. She can’t face the truth of her situation either. Hank’s aunt Emma (Marisa Tomei) dislikes her sister so much that she doesn’t want to buy her a present. Instead she decides to steal it.
None of these people want to be honest and the film hides behind this caricatures rather than create anything new.
The cast here is so great that you want screenwriter Steven Rogers (Stepmom, Hope Floats) to offer them something unique or interesting to say. The plot though strictly relies on formula and within the feature’s opening minutes, audiences will likely know where the story is headed..
The only thing that you won’t know is how insufferable these characters will become. Tomei, an Oscar-winning actress, is left with the undesirable task of bringing life to an uncaring character who steals, lies and tries to manipulate a naïve policeman (Anthony Mackie), whose car ride to the police station from the mall takes up the majority of this subplot’s running time.
The most interesting storyline may be the budding relationship between the cynical Eleanor and the optimistic soldier who meet at the airport and then pose as a couple at her parent’s house. The chemistry — established in a few brief airport scenes—between Wilde and Lacy is palpable but just when you think the story could surprise you, they make the clichéd choice to pose as a couple. Of course, their choice comes back to bite them but by the end, you already know what’s going to happen.
It might be too much for a film like this to offer a few surprises or twists along the way but it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to bring life to these characters in a way that keeps things interesting or unique. Here, the trite conclusion is so tacked on that it feels completely unearned. For ninety minutes, the film shows us the major issues that these characters are facing in their lives but in the final fifteen minutes, all of those problems are whisked away for the sake of a happy ending. That complacency is one of the reasosn why it’s so difficult to love the Coopers.
Review by: John Hanlon