Love the Coopers

Directed By: Jessie Nelson

Starring: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, and Olivia Wilde

Several weeks ago, veteran actor Alan Arkin suffered a minor stroke.  We at STMR want to wish
him a safe and speedy recovery during this holiday season.  Looking at this situation, I must say that it's really surprising how life can imitate art at times.  As fate would have it, Arkin's character suffers a minor stroke in his latest feature, holiday-themed film Love the Coopers.  While I'm sure it would be fascinating to write an article about how crazy it is that an actor has a minor stroke the very same week a movie is released in which his character suffers the same fate, I've got reviews to write and turkey to enjoy.  Let's get on with the hot mess that is Love the Coopers.

This Christmas, Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman & Diane Keaton) have a surprise announcement for their family.  After decades of marriage, they're getting divorced.  They've just grown apart as Charlotte has become a mother obsessed with her adult children and not living her own life.  As such, Charlotte insists on hosting one last Christmas as a family before the announcement, and the couple bickers away as they make all the necessary holiday preparations, including picking up Sam's Aunt Fishy (June Squibb) from her nursing home.  As the parents bicker, their daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) flies into town and hangs out at the airport to avoid seeing her family.  Still single, she finds herself at the airport bar hitting on a soldier named Joe (Jake Lacy) looking for some semblance of love.  

Charlotte's father Bucky (Alan Arkin) lives in the city and frequents a diner where young waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried) works.  They converse on a daily basis about the most mundane things, but they have a strong relationship that goes well beyond good customer service.  That relationship suddenly goes downhill when Ruby announces her final day at the restaurant and that she's moving to a small town in the South.  Charlotte's sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) meanwhile loathes the thought of another Christmas at which she's reminded of everything she doesn't have.  Tired of her sister giving her the gift of making donations in her name, Emma decides to strike back by stealing a less than charming gift.  The problem is that she gets caught and ends up spending her holiday in the back of Officer Percy Williams's (Anthony Mackie) vehicle.  Elsewhere, Sam and Charlotte's son Hank (Ed Helms) hides the fact from his ex-wife and children that he's lost his job and has been unemployed for some time now.

For a cast this impressive, there is no excuse for Love the Coopers to be the meandering mess that it unfortunately is.  Before I talk about how poorly the film was executed, let's talk about how poorly it was cast by director Jessie Nelson.  Defying simple logic, none of the casting is age appropriate.  I can't suspend my disbelief that 81 year-old Alan Arkin fathered a 69 year-old Diane Keaton or that Keaton is the sister of 50 year-old Marisa Tomei.  Let's not even talk about the fact that a 29 year-old Amanda Seyfried is into Arkin, and it's not for his character's money.  There's something seriously wrong here.  Nelson and the film's casting director squarely shoulder the blame.

Getting back to basics, there's no spark of movie magic here in Love the Coopers.  Yes, family problems loom over this Christmas for the Cooper clan.  Yes, the family doesn't exactly operate as a unit given all these woes.  Still, there's nothing that makes this feel like a good Christmas movie.  There's no real drama and even less in the comedy department.  The cast members play on their personas.  The movie is devoid of genuine holiday spirit as we navigate the lives of entirely too many characters.  For a movie obsessed with unguarded beautiful moments, it has none.

The narrative of Love the Coopers is all over the map.  The central factor driving the bloated cast and stifling the film from finding any Christmas magic, the narrative fosters a below average ensemble picture of its size.  Moving back and forth amongst numerous storylines, the film fails to develop a single one of them sensibly, and they all mesh together in one big jumbled mess.  Despite the wealth of characters and storylines to address, somehow Sam and Charlotte's dog plays point in many scenes.  Why???  Simply put, it's an incoherent narrative that leaves us wanting less.  

You're going to need more than some eggnog for Love the Coopers.  The movie fails on every level.  It's just everything a Christmas movie shouldn't be.  Love the Coopers gets a wasted rating.