Movie Review: Love the Coopers

Ensemble films can be a tricky thing. Usually, the cast is packed chock-full of A-listers, as this film is, but that doesn't mean the writing in the movie will be good. Although a few of the jokes did fall flat, the film was a lot funnier than I thought it would be, with some tinges of sadness and wistfulness thrown in as well.

Love the Coopers has a few stories going on at the same time, which later interconnect. The matriarch of the family, Charlotte (Diane Keaton) wants to throw "one last perfect Christmas" for her kids, since she and her husband Sam (John Goodman) are separating after 40 years of marriage. Her sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), is bitter about being alone on the holiday, even though she's going to Emma's Christmas dinner, and finds the ugliest gift she can find for her and steals it; she gets arrested, and ends up in a cop car with Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie), whom she eventually befriends.

Emma's children aren't doing too well either: Hank (Ed Helms) has recently divorced, and continuously squabbles with his ex-wife; on top of that, he's just been laid off from his job as a department-store photographer. His sister, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), is hanging out at the airport bar in order to put off the family gathering later on, where she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), whose flight back home has been canceled. Eleanor convinces him to pretend to be her boyfriend, just for the night, in order to avoid "that sad face" her mom gives her when she finds out she's still single. And to top off the family tree, her grandfather, Bucky (Alan Arkin), is mad because one of his favorite waitresses, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), just announced that her last day of work was that day, and she told a few of the other diner patrons but not him.

Confused yet? I'd be remiss if I didn't mention June Squibb here, too, as Aunt Fishy, the aunt of Goodman's character; I loved her in Nebraska and she's funny here, too. The movie reminded me a bit of Love, Actually, which is one of my favorite ensemble/holiday films, so that was definitely a good thing. I will say the one pairing that wasn't my favorite was Keaton with Goodman, as they had SOME chemistry (they're both veteran actors, so that was to be expected) but they could have had more; my favorite pairing was Wilde with Jake Lacy, but I'm a fan of his from Obvious Child (and I love Wilde's movies too) so that was to be expected.

Yes, see this movie. My rating may seem a little high, but the film kept me laughing throughout, and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. I will say some scenes might induce tears more than laughter; Keaton's character had another little girl too, who would have been Wilde and Helms's sister, who passed away at a very young age, and she's mentioned a few times. I loved how the movie showed the past, in a way - there's a scene where Keaton and Tomei are arguing, and we see them as little girls, yelling at each other, in that same moment; Keaton's character also "sees into the past" when she's making Christmas dinner, and remembers her children as young kids. I'd recommend this film for anyone who enjoys holiday films or ensemble pieces, but I'll warn you that it's not "slapstick funny" like some other holiday movies I can name - it's more of a portrait of a dysfunctional family, flaws and all.

Love the Coopers is in theaters today, November 13th, and is rated PG-13 with a runtime of approximately 142 minutes. 4 stars out of 5.

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