Love The Coopers, directed by Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam), is not your quirky and lovable family adventure featuring the Griswolds. This narrative is ultimately summed up in its tagline, “You can’t regift family”. Basically, these dispersed family members are all very mean and self-absorbed, but they’re all trying to get to the same place: the house of their parents, Charlotte (Dianne Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman), for Christmas lunch.
This is a heavy character piece as seen through a plethora of vignettes and a handful of clichés. There are lots of monologues here, some reasonable and others dreary. The inner demons and truths contained within our characters are projected in a way that is neither well articulated nor believable, you just take their word for it. It’s as though Love the Coopers has been poorly adapted from a book, despite being an original screenplay. If it really had been adapted from a book, you could at least commend the film for trying.
Love The Coopers has a strange vibe. I don’t mean a good-David-Lynch-strange, just…off. It has forced debates on nationalism, religion and science through the irritating lefty Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) and her friendship/relationship with Joe (Jake Lacy), a republican in the army whom she meets at a bar. The dialogue is both pointless and dull. This difference between the two characters may be distinct, but the film’s attempt at depicting their individualism is lazy when it comes down to it; hey, they both enjoy drinking McCafe coffee! Product placement heaven aside, I have to come back to the fact that if this were adapted from a book then the writer would have been able to express these characters a lot more interestingly than through their enjoyment of McCafe. Also, I’m all for expressing political and social stances, but it’s baffling why these moments are even in the film. Perhaps it would have been better sticking with the corny traditional cheer, which at least would have fitted into the genre stronger.
Although Steve Martin has failed to impress in film in quite some time, he does a great job as Love The Coopers’ narrator. His vocals are great. Articulating the right funny moments and providing sarcastic sentiment, Martin gives the film a very natural, Arrested Development-type feel, although not as funny. Alan Arkin shows some spark as Bucky, the cynical, bookish bowtie-wearing father to Charlotte. On a side note, he sounds exactly like Larry David; you just needed to close your eyes.
Just sometimes, you get the occasional okay moment, but very few. Opening with Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal,” for a few minutes you get the impression that this is a film trying to be different; that it could actually be decent. Likewise, it’s great in those the two moments you get to hear Bob Dylan, despite his music being coded with obvious intent – reflecting on a time that was young, free and spirited. The rest of the film packs in the Christmas tunes, and that uncomfortable moment John Goodman sings.
It’s a shame to witness a lot of good actors in this film. The likes of Marisa Tomei, Diane Keaton and John Goodman are all wasted – you can think of a much better film they’ve each been in.
THE REEL SCORE: 4/10