Love the Coopers (2015)
It’s something of a tradition at my house to go see the new Christmas film that releases each holiday season. Of course this does have limits but past years have seen us filing into a theater row to see something like Christmas with the Kranks or The Chronicles of Narnia. The year the nominee was Love the Coopers. There is both good and bad tidings to report on.
Once family was important to the Coopers. They enjoyed traditional holidays and as a young family, were happy. But on this Christmas Eve, each of the members of the long-since scattered Cooper family are reflecting. Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman, Diane Keaton) have been married for 40 years and unbeknown to their two children, after this Christmas, they’re ready to call it quits. Son Hank (Ed Helms) is divorced and unemployed with three children – including a teenager with a surly attitude and a young daughter whose latest habit is in need of breaking. Their daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) seems incapable of finding success in her career as a playwright or in her relationships. Ever since she discovered her fiancé cheating on her she has closed herself off from the possibility of love and instead lives through the unguarded moments she finds in the faces of strangers.
As Christmas approaches, the family is preparing to come together for Christmas dinner including Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei). Only the Cooper family isn’t the only people about to sit around the dining room table. Meanwhile, Eleanor meets a soldier - Joe (Jake Lacey), delayed at the airport and about to ship out to Afghanistan. Unable to again face her mother’s “look,” she begs Joe to return home with her and pretend to be her boyfriend, a favor that snowballs out of control as does the family’s entire holiday.
Imperfections and all, I have to be honest enough to say that I absolutely appreciated this film. With so many holiday films already available that focus on the anything-that-can-go-wrong-does chaotic premise, it was refreshing to discover something that took ten steps back from that. Because of this, I loved this quieter character focused (almost Indie-esque) drama albeit present with a healthy dose of comedy. Before going further, I will just offer an informative tidbit. Conventional viewers won’t find this film to be “good.” The reason I say this is because there are some sacrilegious “jokes” that might bother some viewers. Personally, they don’t hold much weight with me because I go into these types of films anticipating something “offensive.” Right or wrong, the rarity today is discovering that one gem that doesn’t involve something bothersome – there’s always someone who is going to be offended by the method a script deals with something.
Having gotten that brief rant out of the way, let’s continue on with the reasons why I overlooked the bad. With exception to the charms of Hallmark telefilms, most Christmas movies of the modern era attempt to outdo one another with copious amounts of chaos. While this makes for a comedic 90 minutes, it really serves no depth or purpose towards the characters. Here, there is a linier story told for the characters which is an almost beautiful kind of change. I loved the "heart" the script had. True there are some "awkward" faults, but overall the story is a moving one that teaches its character so much more than most of the films of this caliber master.
Broken up into separate sections, the film is structured uniquely. Before everything ties together in a neat Christmas bow, the vignettes (keep a close eye on everything that's said and happens, because nearly everything and everyone has a connection before they even know they do) are broken into sections, giving us a kind of unique perspective and a snapshot of what each character is looking for or is about prior to piling them together in one cramped space. My favorite section was the airport scenes and the ensuing train scene. But then, I'm perfectly willing to admit that may be the romantic in me talking.
If you're looking for something fun to enjoy with the family during the season, Love the Coopers isn't a bad way to do that. Just know that this is more of a scrapbook film than it is a night at the comedy show. Final word would go something like this; if you prefer cleaner entertainment, enjoy the charms of Hallmark Channel's line up. But, if you don't mind overlooking some flaws to get to the heart of a good story (seriously, the ending of this - the narration, and unguarded joy), strangely it reminds of to give thanks for those in our life and to embrace the “messy,” simple joys that find us on that journey.
(Content: a running gag about first kisses is played in the film. The joke revolves around teens not knowing how to kiss and we see at least three scenes of awkward, goofy “kissing” to illustrate this point. There are a handful of additional sexual jokes – and crude humor, and the awkward “make out” scenes involving a married couple and the teens. One minor character is a homosexual. A woman is having an affair with a married man [gleaned from conversation only]. There is some profanity - of the garden variety, and a few crude terms including a repeated term from a young girl. The film is rated PG13.)