Film Review: Love the Coopers

Relentlessly annoying Christmas comedy, with lots of psychobabble thrown in for good measure, centering on a dysfunctional family finding redemption and hope on Christmas Eve.
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Short of a very sweet dog, Rags, who plays the house pet in Love the Coopers, this doozy is one of the dullest, most cliché-ridden and cloying Christmas movies to hit the screen in a long time. Treacle doesn’t begin to describe it.

Starring big names—Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Anthony Mackie and Amanda Seyfried, among others—it tells the story of an excessively troubled family, festering with unvoiced resentment, finding forgiveness, redemption, hope—also unbridled joy—on Christmas Eve.

Spoiler alert: It ends with the whole clan dancing wildly in a hospital cafeteria while grandpa Bucky (Arkin) is recovering from a stroke upstairs. In fact, he has recovered so miraculously—hey, it’s Christmas—he has managed to come down to the cafeteria, unnoticed by anyone, to observe the happiness, IV hooked into his arm and attached to his walker pole.

After 40 years of marriage, Charlotte and Sam Cooper (Keaton and Goodman) are about to separate. Still, Charlotte is determined to have one last big family Christmas blowout and keep the bad news secret until after the celebration. But she and Sam are not the only ones with a secret. This family specializes in hidden pain, septic emotional wounds and oddball behavior.

Daughter Eleanor (Wilde), an unsuccessful playwright who is having an affair with a married man, knows she is a big disappointment to her parents, especially Mom. She dreads the holidays. At the airport, she picks up Army soldier Joe (Jake Lacy) and invites him home with her to pretend to be her boyfriend. The airport is snowed in, his plane is grounded, and so he accepts.

Charlotte’s sister Emma (Tomei), a liar and petty thief, has resented her more-lucky-in-life sibling since childhood. She especially resents spending big money—indeed, any money—to buy Sis a Christmas gift. On Christmas Eve she shoplifts a broach for Charlotte’s present, is caught and arrested by a cop (Mackie) battling his own demons. On the ride to the police precinct, they share their life stories, analyze each other—the psychobabble in this scene is peerless—and each comes to a new self-understanding. Later, she arrives at the Coopers and is seated with the children, which morphs into further hurt feelings and rage.

Wait. There’s more. Charlotte and Sam‘s son Hank (Helms) is an unemployed single father of three who desperately needs a job but doesn’t want his family to know for fear of their contempt and pity. To make matters worse, his beleaguered ex-wife (Alex Borstein) is seated alongside him at dinner in order to maintain the façade of family unity.

Throw into the brew Sam’s Aunt Fishy (June Squibb), who’s in the early stages of dementia, and Charlotte and Emma’s dad Bucky, the Cooper patriarch, who’s also suffering a private anguish. It’s no wonder he has a stroke. In all fairness, his backstory might have made an interesting film. He’s hopelessly in love with a waitress (Seyfried) 50 years his junior, and while the feelings are mutual, it’s clearly a relationship that can go nowhere.

But, regrettably, that’s not the film he’s in. Instead he and the audience have to endure the loud and relentless airing of emotionally fraught family grievances before reconciliation is achieved.

The performances cannot be faulted. Goodman and Squibb are standouts. The problem is the screenplay by Steven Rogers (remember his Stepmom?) and, to a lesser extent, Jessie Nelson’s uninspired direction. Still, what could she possibly do, given the story?

The big question is why these pedigreed actors got hooked into this film. Did they not know how dreary it is? One has to assume they copped handsome (very handsome) compensation.

Click here for cast and crew information.