LOVE THE COOPERS
Four generations of the Cooper family come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. As the evening unfolds, a series of unexpected visitors and surprising revelations turn the night upside down, leading to a rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of holiday.
Review by Louise Keller:
Contrived, schmaltzy and predictable with a few lashings of truth thrown in for good measure, this sugar-coated comedy about a dysfunctional family at Christmas does its best to explore the relationships, complete with the ups and downs of expectations and disappointments. What was, what is and what could be is how Kate & Leopold screenwriter Steven Rogers frames his story, offering occasional glimpses of past event as justification for today's behavior and mindset. Some of the story strands work better than others - like Diane Keaton and John Goodman's flailing 40 year old marriage and Olivia Wilde's 'pretend' relationship with a Republican soldier she picks up at a bar. It's a mixed stocking and if you're prepared for the Hollywood tinsel search for 'comfort and joy', that's pretty much what you will get.
It must seem a little like deja vu for Diane Keaton, who played the family matriarch in The Family Stone (2005), although in that case, the pendulum swung more comfortably between comedy and tragedy. Here, the screenplay captures the crux of the tired marriage scenario after the kids have left home and the couple's dreams are different. As Eleanor, the aspiring playwright who peaked at 19 and has settled for a relationship with a married man, Wilde is terrific, her vulnerability captured in tight close ups. Eleanor's push-pull relationship with Joe (Jake Lacy) is truthfully described and the scenes when she takes him home to meet the family is deliciously on the edge.
The strand involving Ed Helms as the out of work Mall photographer who snorts when things are not going well is rather ho-hum and the storyline involving Marisa Tomei's Emma (incredibly playing Keaton's younger sister), who begins a personal conversation with the cop (Anthony Mackie) who arrests her after shoplifting, is outright ridiculous. Then there is Alan Arkin as the bow-tie sporting granddad, whose relationship with the waitress at his local diner (Amanda Seyfried) is in part entertaining, although difficult to swallow. And there is Rags, the lovable family dog, the elderly aunt with a fading memory and a teenager who experiences his first kiss.
The film rises and falls as it engages and disappoints, like an ever-shifting graph. The constant narration (by an uncredited Steve Martin) is irritating and frustrating; by the time we discover whose voice is telling the story, it is too late for redemption. While we may not be able to unequivocally Love the Coopers as the title suggests, the film does offer some nice touches and director Jessie Nelson has woven the elements into a commercial patchwork with some silken threads.
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LOVE THE COOPERS (PG)
CAST: Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, June Squibb, Ed Helms, Anthony Mackie, Jake Lacy
PRODUCER: Brian Grazer, Michael London, Jessie Nelson, Janice Williams
DIRECTOR: Jessie Nelson
SCRIPT: Steven Rogers
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Elliot Davis
EDITOR: Nancy Richardson
MUSIC: Nick Urata
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Beth A. Rubino
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: eOne
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 26, 2015