Love the Coopers

Nov 13, 2015

It's rough at holiday time, but most families like the sometimes-amusing Coopers make it through to next year.

Love the Coopers

Grade: B-

Director: Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam)

Screenplay: Steven Rodgers (P.S. I Love You)

Cast: Olivia Wilde (Rush), Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia!)

Rating: PG 13

Runtime: 107 min.

by John DeSando

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.” George Carlin

My favorite Christmas movie is Bad Santa, so you know where I’m coming from when I write that Love the Coopers is partly loveable.

An upper-class family reunion at Christmas time is Mt. Lebanon, Pa., is fraught with anti-Christmas episodes, barely excluding anyone in the Cooper family from trials that threaten to sabotage completely the elders’ attempts to have everything end as in It’s a Wonderful Life.

As I reflect on the film family, where even the elders, Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman), have problems—they are divorcing after 40 years, I think of the many challenges of my family, down to grandkids, that threaten to decimate the holiday cheer.  However those speed bumps seem to strengthen rather than weaken the family.

The film wisely lets the rough notes be played by the young as well as the old. For example, twenty-something Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) cannot seem to hang on to a man despite her charm and unusually good looks—she’s the strongest plot component and deserves more face time. Teen Charlie (Timothee Chalamet) angles for his first kiss while being bullied and humiliated on the path to victory.

Most poignant non-family reveler, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), has a deep, Platonic connection to patriarch Bucky (Alan Arkin), an odd combination with 50 years between them and a satisfying one at that.

It is possible to infer that just about everyone is looking for love, but usually in the wrong places. Although the film does not make that search easy, it has so many funny moments, more than the dark doings should allow, lightening and heightening the aspirations of the characters.

As for the rest of us left with holiday reunions, take comfort: Even the dysfunctional Coopers find enough love to make it through to the next Christmas.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at