Love_The_Coopers

Watching Love the Coopers my mind couldn’t help but be repeatedly drawn back to another star-studded family drama: Little Miss Sunshine. And I know what you’re thinking: you’re just saying that because they both star the brilliant Alan Arkin. No – it’s a bit more than that.

See, the story follows a large family. They’re quirky – quite unique, actually. Some are very ambitious while others prefer to lay low, though find themselves in others’ shadows in doing so. And though they love each other, they fight. A lot.

They’ve also got a big event to get to throughout the film, though the movie focuses on the struggles they all go through in getting there. And it’s certainly a bit harder for some than for others. And the action is paused as the family deals with a tragedy, though in the end it’s that tragedy that brings them all together.

Of course there are also some Christmas tropes thrown in for good measure: the pleasant, old-timey sounding narrator, the family dog availing itself of some of the holiday meal, a white Christmas, someone being stuck in an airport, etc.

However, that’s not to say there was no originality in the film. And it’s not unenjoyable, either. It follows Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) Cooper – as well as their parents, siblings, children, and their children’s children – as they celebrate Christmas Eve.

Charlotte and Sam, who once shared a love story for the books seem to have grown apart – a fact they would like to hide from their family for this one last day. They take on quite the load as they prepare to host dinner while also babysitting son Hank’s (Ed Helms) young daughter Madison (Blake Baumgartner), watching out for Aunt Fishie (a hilarious June Squibb) and dealing with their marital issues.

Their son Hank is struggling as his demanding ex tries to pressure him into buying big gifts he cannot afford after being laid off from his job – something he’d also like kept hidden. His children Charlie (Timothée Chalamet) and Bo (Maxwell Simkins) are out on the hunt for their first kiss and the perfect gift for their brother, respectively.

Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), who seems to have dubbed herself the family screwup, is putting off the inevitable disappointment she’ll cause by killing time at an airport, where she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), who could be the answer to her problems.

Emma (Marisa Tomei), Charlotte’s sister, meanwhile, is feeling inadequate herself, and gets herself into trouble at the mall ahead of dinner while being petty over Christmas gifts. She spends a good deal of the film speaking with Captain America’s Anthony Mackie. And while Mackie himself is good in the role, his plotline felt a bit archaic to me.

Bucky (Arkin), spent the day at his favorite coffee shop, where he introduced one of the most confusing relationships in the movie, between him and Ruby (Amanda Seyfried). It felt part Kate Winslet/Eli Wallach in The Holiday (aka adorable) but also part Harold and Maude, and I couldn’t quite figure it out.

Despite some expected tropes, strange plotlines, and a few oddly delivered lines here and there, it’s overall an enjoyable story. And it’s truly a great group of actors. It’s not without its comedic relief – and the child actors are a particular joy – with Bo and Madison coming across quite sensitive and sweet in poignant moments for their age.

The film concludes with a surprise ending, though I’m using the phrase a bit lightly here. I felt it was a tad cheesy, but it is a family movie, so perhaps children will like it.