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article imageReview: ‘Love the Coopers’ is smothered in sugary melodrama Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Nov 15, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Love the Coopers’ is the latest middling compilation of characters trying to navigate the holidays with their equally dissatisfied family members.
The end of the year seems to elicit films about dysfunctional families trying to spend the holidays together, and collections of loosely related stories of people trying to find love and happiness in the chaos; the proliferation of these narratives is likely inspired to some extent by the popularity of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Love Actually respectively. However most pictures fail to recreate the success of either. Love the Coopers has decided to try to capture the essence of both styles.
After 40 years, the cracks in Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte’s (Diane Keaton) marriage are turning into chasms. But they’re determined to host a happy Christmas with their family. Their son, Hank (Ed Helms), is still struggling post-divorce and keeping another bombshell from his loved ones. Their daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), is tired of facing her parents’ disappointment every visit so she devises a plan with an off-duty soldier (Jake Lacy) she meets in an airport bar to finally satisfy them. Charlotte’s father, Bucky (Alan Arkin), is delivered some upsetting news on Christmas Eve, while his other daughter, Emma (Marisa Tomei), has an impromptu heart-to-heart with Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), a stern police officer.
Developing a script with multiple stories that eventually merge into one can be a difficult task. One tactic this movie employs is a single narrator for every family member, including Rags the dog who refers to himself in the third person. The voiceover often guides the viewer through flashbacks of former Christmases or just generally happy moments, which is sometimes whimsical but often unwarranted. The individual tales range from trying too hard to being completely relatable, and frequently switches between the two extremes in an instant. Probably the worst offense is committed by one of the narrative’s most appealing pairs as an important moment in their relationship is spoiled with an annoyingly overdramatic scene.
On the other hand, the picture’s main strength is certainly its focus on connections between people. And just to make sure audiences understand that is what the film is about, Wilde’s character is fascinated with people watching and spying unguarded moments between strangers. Of course, Eleanor’s affiliation with the unnamed soldier is the most romantic of the group as they try to overlook the sparks between them in favour of a superficial relationship. Bucky’s kinship with the waitress (Amanda Seyfried) at a local diner is sweet and innocently flirtatious, which eventually inspires a more promising association. And Emma’s heartfelt conversation with Officer Williams is a mix of commiseration and much needed confession as they exchange their sad stories. Conversely, Sam and Charlotte are the unhappy example of how a steely link can be allowed to erode over the years.
There are some genuinely sincere and enjoyable moments in this movie, but they’re tainted by all the times the filmmakers go overboard.
Director: Jessie Nelson
Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman and Ed Helms
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