Directed by: Jessie Nelson
Premise: An extended family gathers for a Christmas Eve celebration.
What Works: Love the Coopers is, in part, about the way that the family house is connected with memory and identity. The filmmakers do some interesting things visually with that idea; on several occasions a character looks across a room or down a hallway and sees their children or other relatives in that space in Christmases past. As a movie about a family, Love the Coopers has a lot of characters and storylines. The most interesting subplot occurs between a struggling writer and a soldier, played by Olivia Wilde and Jake Lacy, respectively. Repurposing a few romantic comedy tropes, the two meet in the airport during the holiday rush and when his flight is cancelled she convinces him to come to her family’s celebration and pose as her boyfriend. The scenario is familiar and predictable but Wilde and Lacy have a genuine chemistry that makes their story the most watchable subplot in the movie.
What Doesn’t: Love the Coopers is reminiscent of films like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day in that it includes a large cast of recognizable actors and the filmmakers weave an intricate web of scenarios that’s intended to create a holiday collage. And just like many of those other movies, Love the Coopers fails miserably. For one, Love the Coopers has far too many characters. There are many subplots but no stories. A narrative is a sequences of events linked in a cause and effect relationship. This movie is just a bunch of random scenes slapped together. None of these subplots has anything at stake and the circumstances don’t escalate. Had screenwriter Steven Rogers eliminated about half of the plotlines and then taken the time to develop the remaining characters the movie might have something going for it. But the overabundance of characters and subplots in Love the Coopers is only part of the problem. Almost no one in this movie is likable. Everyone is a selfish jerk or they are victims of selfish jerks who don’t learn to stand up for themselves. Unlikable characters can be watchable if they are made interesting but Love the Coopers is nearly the textbook definition of a “first world problems” movie; this is a picture about well-off characters who have nothing worth complaining about and so they manufacture contrived conflicts to create tension. This is most evident in the parents played by John Goodman and Diane Keaton; they’re a couple of the verge of splitting up apparently because he wants to take a trip to Africa and she doesn’t want to go. The moviemakers try to convince us that the trip is a metaphor of the strain in their marriage but nothing else seems all that wrong and for a couple on the verge of separation they spend a lot of time together. In another subplot, Marisa Tomei’s character is caught shoplifting and then spends the bulk of the picture in the backseat of a police car psychoanalyzing the cop who is taking her in. It’s an absurd series of events that culminates with the officer advising Tomei’s character to buy her sister the most expensive gift that she can find. Because, as the movie would have it, that’s the real meaning of Christmas. Where holiday pictures like Jingle All the Way and Surviving Christmas at least tried to send up the crassness and commercialization of the season, Love the Coopers embraces it. The film is all about repairing relationships through gift giving and maintaining traditions with no regard for what those traditions mean. There is a last minute attempt at a course correction in which all the family members arbitrarily forget everything that’s been bothering them and dance as a group, even the elderly aunt who has spent the entire movie in a wheel chair. It’s entirely disingenuous, which makes it a fitting conclusion to this movie.
Bottom Line: There are a lot of bad Christmas movies out there but Love the Coopers is among the worst. Silent Night, Deadly Night had more to say about the season that this tripe.
Episode: #570 (November 22, 2015)