“Love The Coopers” a Christmas Fable
By Skip Sheffield
It’s getting to be that time of year when Christmas-themed movies appear. “Love The Coopers” is a dysfunctional family Christmas fable with an A-list cast that includes Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin.
Diane Keaton and John Goodman are Charlotte and Sam, a Pittsburgh couple married 40 years. They have traditionally hosted a big family Christmas Eve dinner, but this year tension is in the air. In fact Charlotte and Sam are thinking of calling it quits, but Charlotte in particular wants to carry on the Christmas tradition as if nothing was wrong.
Marisa Tomei is Charlotte’s younger sister Emma. The sisters have had a rocky relationship all their lives, and it has gotten worse with age. Early in the story Emma tries to steal a brooch and is arrested by solemn Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie).
Ed Helms is son Hank, recently divorced from Angie (Alex Borstein). Daughter Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) is unhappily working as a waitress at a diner, and even her grandfather Bucky (Alan Arkin) can’t cheer her up. Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) is showing early signs of dementia. Unmarried daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), who has been carrying on an affair with a married man, has a chance meeting at the airport with a friendly soldier named Joe (Jake Lacy), whom she recruits to pretend to be her fiancé. Filling out the table are assorted grandchildren.
Director Jessie Nelson (“I Am Sam”) previously worked with screenwriter Steven Rogers on “Step Mom.” The story is amusingly narrated by the family dog, voiced by Steve Martin. Director Nelson tries to walk the fine line between comedy and pathos, but “Love The Coopers” isn’t very funny yet very sentimental. Every director dreams of creating a Christmas classic like “Miracle on 34th Street” or “White Christmas,” but this is not one of them.