It seems that each family member was in competition with each other about who can be the most dysfunctional.
There seems to be ‘that’ Christmas movie released every year and Christmas with the Coopers (or Love the Coopers, the film’s American title) is no different. It is about a family and how quirky and crazy they all are. They fight, have the same old issues with each other and themselves but, underneath it all, they love each other and besides, it’s the holidays, nobody can be angry in the holidays. There can be arguments, someone can be ill, truths come out, people may be sad but everybody moves on. But, in the end, everything is OK because it’s Christmas!
Every year, Sam and Charlotte Cooper host Christmas, wanting nothing more than to have the whole family gathered together to celebrate the holidays. But Sam and Charlotte, married 40 years, are having problems. He wants adventure and she won’t leave home. Their son, Hank, is coping with being a newly divorced single parent, trying to find a job before New Year. His sister, Eleanor, a self proclaimed screw-up, is completely distrusting of men. She finds a new friend in Joe at the airport who she asks to be her fake boyfriend, just so she can escape her mother’s disapproval for one more year. Then there is Aunt Emma (I can’t believe Marissa Tomei is 51 years old) who is alone and angry, resorting to steal Christmas presents. Finally, there is Grandpa Bucky who doesn’t want his kindred spirit, a young waitress Ruby, at his local diner, to leave him behind. As you can see, they’ve all got issues and things going on. Oh, and one last thing – the story is narrated by the Sam and Charlotte’s dog, Rags, voiced by Steve Martin.
Throughout the predictable shenanigans of the Cooper clan, there are a few moments of pure happiness that somehow make this film and its two dimensional characters bearable. A security guard at the mall watches Hank’s teenage son share his first kiss (it’s terrible), but it prompts him to pause and remember all his own kisses. A montage of him through the ages with the same girl may seem cheesy but its wordlessness and his expression at the end of this brief moment is actually rather heart-warming. The use of flashbacks and intercutting to show the character’s younger selves makes the film slightly different from similar fare, even if most of the time it’s quite sad. Having sisters Emma and Charlotte argue as adults – quickly cutting to them when they were young – is effective in that it shows had sad it is these characters have never really moved on or changed. Rooted in their stubborn ways doesn’t give hope at the end of the film.
Amongst the typical characters, there is Eleanor, the so-called tortured playwright whose singleness is a constant disappointment to her parents, is perhaps the only character who deserved a better conclusion. Cheated on by her fiancé, she resigns herself to dating a married man that she knows will lead nowhere. She wants to write but her success so far has been downhill, claiming her peak came at 19 years old. She is perhaps cynical compared to the overly Christian Joe, who is about to join the army, but sees something in her that she doesn’t. What makes her stand out from the crowd is that she loves to watch genuine moments of emotion. Whether it’s twin brothers laughing at the same thing or an older couple sharing a kiss at the airport, she catches these moments from the corner of her eye, showing that all hope is not lost. But her conclusion is rushed and slightly lacking in thought, which is a shame.
As an average film watched at anytime of the year, this film would be as enjoyable as watching paint dry, but, with the power of the Christmas season almost upon us, the film could win over a few bored people. Something to have on in the background as the day winds down.
Dir: Jessie Nelson
Scr: Steve Rogers
Cast: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde
Prd: Michael London, Brian Grazer, Jessie Nelson, Janice Williams
Music: Nick Urata
DOP: Elliot Davis
Run Time: 107 minutes
Christmas with the Coopers is out on DVD and on-demand 21st November