Ready or not, the Christmas season has begun and with that comes the release of the new ensemble holiday film Love the Coopers. This comedy/drama explores the lives of four generations of Cooper family members as they gather together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration. Although things don’t go as planned, this predictable family-friendly film follows a traditional formula chock full of cliches and seasonal stereotypes.
Directed by Jessie Nelson, Love the Coopers features a virtual who’s who in terms of its cast. Among the talented actors featured in the film are Diane Keaton (who also served as the film’s co-producer), John Goodman, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, June Squibb, and Anthony Mackie. The flick also includes narration by none other than Steve Martin.
Aside from its Christmas theme, Love the Coopers also includes a number of elements that periodically recur throughout the course of the film. This includes seasonal flashbacks as well as visions of ghosts from the past who sporadically appear to remind various characters of nostalgic times gone by. For laughs (?) the movie also features numerous shots of people spitting out their food or in one case vomiting, which supposedly serves as comic relief.
Love the Coopers includes an array of narrative elements that are either highly implausible and/or inexplicable. Examples of this can be found in the subplots involving Emma (Tomei) and Eleanor (Wilde). Early on in the film Emma is arrested for shoplifting. She then spends what seems like endless hours riding around in the back of a cop car. Exactly how far away is this police station? Does it actually exist or is the cop (played by Mackie) just biding his time driving around in circles while divulging his most intimate secrets (and mother issues) to a complete stranger and thief?
Another problematic plot point involves Eleanor who seems reminiscent of the complex and cynical character Wilde portrayed in the 2013 drama Third Person. Viewers are first introduced to her at the airport after she flies in to spend the holiday with her family. Apparently not one of her relatives were available to meet her or pick her up and she ends up spending a lot of time aimlessly wandering around the airport with a soldier she meets at the bar.
One of the more interesting elements of Love the Coopers is the filmmaker’s obvious love of the Christmas flick It’s a Wonderful Life. Indeed references to the Jimmy Stewart classic are thrown in throughout this film. The soldier who becomes involved with Eleanor is named Joe Bailey, while the main character of It’s a Wonderful Life is George Bailey. Late in Love the Coopers, Eleanor even directly references the 1946 movie by calling Bailey her own Clarence (another character from the classic film) and in fact, during the movie’s final sequence, It’s a Wonderful Life can clearly be seen being broadcast on a neighbour’s TV.
Love the Coopers actually seems as if it was meant to be a companion film to director Garry Marshall rom coms Valentine’s Day (2010) and New Years Eve (2011), which both feature an ensemble cast and multiple plot lines all thrown together because they occur on the same holiday. Like these previous films, Love the Coopers feels uneven, heavy handed, and ripe with sentimentality. It follows a well-worn formula with an idealistic depiction of family and Christmas; one that seems to have been taken straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting and filled with true love, happy endings, and plenty of food and good cheer to go around.
Love the Coopers is now playing in theatres.