The acceptable Christmas themed movies find a way to deliver the true message of the holidays even when mired in complete and utter predictability.
There hasn’t been a really memorable, or good Christmas movie, since Love Actually. Love it or loathe it, the Brit ensemble flick has wormed its way into the Yuletide psyche of millions upon millions of film fans. It, however, knew its message and distilled down to one word – love.
Love the Coopers knows its message – one of family – and director Jessie Nelson and writer Steve Rogers deliver that theme in all of its dysfunctional glory. The Coopers – headed by parents Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) – are – in spirit – the American family with all of the warts, all of the infighting and all of the love. The film opens Friday (Nov. 13).
To get to those moments that really matter on an emotional level, however, viewers will have to wade through a lot of cliches.
We soon learn Charlotte and Sam are on the verge of separating and are viewing this as the one last Christmas with their brood. Their son, Hank (Ed Helms), lost his marriage months ago and is plodding through the holiday season trying to find a job.
Daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is sleeping with a married man, but doesn’t want to show up at Christmas dinner alone, so a chance meeting with a soldier shipping out ends up with them perpetuating a fraud that can only happen in the movies.
Charlotte and her sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), go through the typical holiday sibling stuff of jealousy and resentment. And the ultimate patriarch Bucky (Alan Arkin) tries to keep it all together.
All of the story lines sound familiar in some regard. It’s nothing not seen before on film. However, Love the Coopers possesses the advantage of having a thoroughly likable cast and most of them give the film its heart leading to the occasional teary-eyed moment that overcomes the audience despite knowing that manipulation is in full force.
Keaton and Goodman are believable as a couple at a crossroads in their life together realizing that they may be entirely different people. But as to be expected and a fact that doesn’t prove surprising at all, Arkin steals every moment that he’s given on screen.
Much like other ensemble films of this type, following all the threads and weaving them into something coherent proves to be a chore. But somehow Nelson pulls it off.
However, whether it achieves the Holy Grail of Christmas movies – classic status – remains to be seen. No one expected it from Love Actually, but that film also possessed more in terms of originality, intelligence, laughs and just a heart of a size that would make a reformed Grinch envious. The Coopers don’t possess those qualities.
Movie: Love the Coopers
Director: Jessie Nelson
Cast: John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Marisa Tomei, Anthony Mackie
Studio: CBS Films
Rated: Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language and some sexuality.
Running time: 115 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com