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.
Every year, without fail, we are inundated with Christmas and holiday-themed movies. There are the true classics: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” and “White Christmas.” Then there are the more recent classics: “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Home Alone,” and “Elf.” And then there are the truly awful ones: “Jingle All the Way,” “Christmas with the Cranks,” “Four Christmases,” and “Fred Claus.” Hard to believe Vince Vaughn starred in those last two. But every now and again, a movie comes along which is set during the most wonderful time of the year, is brimming with clichéd characters and conventional holiday drama, and resolves everybody’s dilemmas just in time for Santa.
Charlotte and Sam (Diane Keaton and John Goodman), have been married for over forty years but the magic is no longer intact. Sam has always wanted to travel to Africa with Charlotte, to get away from everyone and everything but Charlotte has always found excuses not to go. She has used their children and eventually their grandchildren, as justification to not want to leave their home and just can’t seem to let them go, and after forty years of living separate lives, Sam is ready to leave.
Their son Hank (Ed Helms) and his wife Angie (Alex Borstein) are recently separated and Hank has been without a job for some time, naturally putting pressure on him and their three kids, Charlie (Timothée Chalamet), Bo (Maxwell Simkins), and Madison (Blake Baumgartner).
Charlotte and Sam’s daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), was so badly burned in a previous relationship that she keeps her distance from all men, until she is flying home for Christmas and meets Joe (Jake Lacy), a handsome U.S. soldier on leave for the holidays, at the airport bar. Things are a little awkward in the beginning but they quickly take to each other. When Joe’s plane is cancelled until the next day due to inclement weather, she has the wonderful idea of pretending to be a couple so she can take him back to her parents’ house to prove to them that she can indeed, sustain a serious and indelible relationship.
Emma (Marisa Tomei), Charlotte’s sister, who has been single most of her adult life and envies Charlotte and her ‘perfect’ family, is out Christmas shopping for her when she spots a beautiful broach. Unable to afford it, she quickly places it in her mouth, hoping to just casually exit the store but she is apprehended by security and arrested by Officer Williams (Anthony Mackie).
Bucky (Alan Arkin), Charlotte’s older brother and former school professor, spends his time in a local coffee shop where he interacts daily with Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), a young waitress who looks up to and admires him as they talk movies all day long. When she informs him that she is going to move out of state to follow her dreams, he becomes upset and storms out of the shop.
Naturally, we are introduced to all of these people and their quandaries first thing Christmas Eve morning and as the day progresses, everyone and their unpredictable situations gets scrutinized, up close and personal but this being a Christmas movie, all is resolved by nightfall.
Although “Love the Coopers” is abundant in all of the aforementioned Christmas woes, it works for one reason and one reason only: its cast. There is such a wonderful ensemble on display here that it’s not difficult to overlook the rest of the movie’s shortcomings. We have the quintessential Christmas atmosphere, houses decked out in decorations and lights, and a myriad of holiday sweaters, believe me, there is no shortage of holiday ambience here and everything falls into place neatly by film’s end, thanks to the performances of all involved.
In theaters November 13th
For more info on James visit his site at www.IrishFilmCritic.com