When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday.Written by
It will help you through the holidays to know there is another dysfunctional family out there.
"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 lovable. 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.
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