Being in a relationship means you end up seeing movies you wouldn’t normally see in a million years. Yesterday my girlfriend wanted to see a movie. I voted for Spectre, but she wanted to see a comedy, so I bit the bullet and we went to see Love the Coopers, which got atrocious reviews and looked like the kind of thing that could be used for torture. I wasn’t too far off, but I didn’t feel tortured.
Love the Coopers, which is a title that seems like a command, is one of those ensemble holiday films that are almost always terrible (there is some debate about Love, Actually, but that’s for another time). What I find interesting is that Diane Keaton, who stars as the matriarch of a dysfunctional family, did this thing before in The Family Stone. When she read the script, did she feel deja vu?
Keaton is married to John Goodman, and after forty years of marriage they are ready to call it quits (the reasons are vague–something about a trip to Africa they never took and the old “dead child” cliche), but she wants to have a wonderful Christmas before they announce it. Their kids are Ed Helms, who has just lost his job, and Olivia Wilde, who is a struggling playwright. She is killing time in an airport bar when she meets a clean-cut soldier (Jake Lacy) and ends up enlisting him to pose as her boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Keaton’s sister (Marisa Tomei) gets busted for shoplifting, and while being driven to the police station, psychoanalyzes her arresting officer (Anthony Mackie). These are easily the worst scenes of the film, especially when it comes to light that Mackie is a closeted gay man. Another plot thread has the grandpa (Alan Arkin) and his unrequited love for a young waitress (Amanda Seyfried).
All of this could have made an interesting film, but the script, by Steven Rogers, makes no attempt to make this anything more than cheap sentiment. None of the characters seem like real people, and we get lines like Wilde saying “I believe only in Nina Simone’s voice,” which no person would ever say but a bad screenwriter would write. Also, I had trouble sorting out how everyone was related, because they didn’t really put much effort to take a look at the performers’ ages. Tomei and Keaton sisters? They’re about twenty years apart in age. Arkin as Ed Helms grandfather?
The film was directed by Jessie Nelson, who does try to inject some life into things, with use of quick cuts that show the characters as their younger selves. But he can’t polish this turd. There are so many problems, even with the passage of time–when other characters have had hours pass by, Tomei is still in the back of the cop car–are they driving out of state?
This film was designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Given that, I will say I laughed a couple of times, and those all involved the family dog. Put a dog n your film and it won’t be all bad.