The holiday season is always an incredible time for film. With the awards season approaching fast, studios rush to release their best movies of the year around this time, putting myself in what I like to call “positivity limbo,” the time in which I give far more positive reviews than I normally would, always making me doubt my critical eye for film. Though, this time of year brings about holiday films as well, typically about the prospect of family and love at this time of year. Two years ago, my favorite play, “August: Osage County,” was adapted into a feature film with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts. The film, released at Christmas, was a much darker incarnation of the typical family reunion film than anyone unfamiliar with the source material thought to expect, with a funeral being the clause of the reunion. Like almost every year, 2015 has brought about another holiday ensemble piece, “Love the Coopers,” but does its impressively grand cast make the film timelessly enjoyable? Or does it fall flat like many of these movies do?
Like the sweater I wore to my screening tonight, “Love the Coopers” is a warm, fuzzy, comfortable holiday pic.
“Love the Coopers” revolves around a singular family at Christmas time, with many different storylines building up to the pivotal Christmas dinner. The main storyline revolves around Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman), two empty-nesters finding themselves at a crossroads in their marriage as they await their family to arrive for Christmas. Keaton and Goodman have great chemistry as the troubled couple, with Goodman proving, once again, why he’s such a lovable actor. The storyline I found the most engaging, though, was that of Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), an über-liberal playwright who befriends a conservative soldier, Joe (Jake Lacy), in the airport and convinces him to pretend to be her boyfriend at her family’s Christmas, as not to disappoint her family once again. If the entire film had been nothing but their conquests in the airport and the climactic dinner scene, I would not have been disappointed. In fact, I very much want to see a full length film about this storyline now.
With many ensemble pieces like this, there are many stories that are unnecessary and only clutter the story further. “Love the Coopers” is guilty of having these branches of the story existent, even if the unneeded stories are likable. The storyline revolving around Bucky (Alan Arkin) and his waitress friend Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), is sweet, but doesn’t do much to progress the story. The divorce storyline between Hank (Ed Helms) and Angie (Alex Borstein) is also a bit too quickly handled to pull any emotions from the audience.
The screenplay from Steven Rogers is swift and sharp, making itself most known in the scenes between Eleanor and Joe, with their sometimes relentless sparring over political and lifestyle views. “Love the Coopers” goes into much deeper directions that one might think from the trailer, especially with scenes between Emma (Marisa Tomei) and Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), that really resonated with me personally over the personal issues they find out about each other while Williams is taking Emma to jail for shoplifting.
Perhaps it’s my excitement for the holiday season, but the aesthetic of the film really left me pleased. The stark whites and grays offset with the typical hues of Christmas really put me in the mood for some holiday music. “Love the Coopers” embodies the holiday season in it’s skin, really understanding the look it needed to go for when creating a film such as this. December isn’t just about the red and green, the grayness about it really distinguishes itself too.
Sure, “Love the Coopers” isn’t going to be remembered among the hordes of Oscar-bait films about to be released, but for audiences not so keen on being moved with super serious stories and biopics, “Love the Coopers” is just the type of movie that will bring a smile to the entire family this holiday season. Even if you are someone who likes being moved with super serious stories and biopics, it’s always nice to take a breather with a breezy, warm, fuzzy holiday film with some great writing and performances. Maybe I’m just a bit too sentimental over the holiday season, or maybe “Love the Coopers” is just a genuinely enjoyable film. Your call, readers.
Directed by: Jessie Nelson
Starring: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde
Rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some sexuality
CBS Films presents, an Imagine Entertainment/Groundswell Films/Handwritten Films production, “Love the Coopers”