Charlotte and Sam have decided to divorce after forty years of marriage but they agree to have one last family Christmas before telling their grown children of their separation. Their children, Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) have issues of their own. Hank is going through his own divorce, complete with a moody teenager and a younger son who just wants everyone to be happy again. Eleanor has a strained relationship with her mother and decides to ask a soon-to-be-deployed soldier to Christmas dinner in the guise of being her boyfriend. Charlotte’s sister Emma has a shoplifting problem and their father Buddy (Alan Arkin) invites a waitress (Amanda Seyfried) from a nearby diner to dinner.
Love the Coopers is very reminiscent of The Family Stone and countless other holiday family dramedies that came before it. There are some hits and plenty of misses but I found Love the Coopers to be extremely enjoyable. I would never have imagined Diane Keaton and John Goodman married with children but they have such lovely chemistry that made it easy to believe they had been together for forty years. I also really enjoyed the scenes between Wilde and Jake Lacy, who played Joe, the soldier at the airport. They seemed to be complete opposites, personality-wise, but I thought they had good chemistry too, and I could have definitely watched an entire rom-com centered around those two characters.
Anthony Mackie shows up as a withdrawn cop tasked with taking Emma (Marisa Tomei) to the station after she’s caught stealing at the mall and she decides to play head shrink on the car ride. Alex Borstein plays Angie, Hank’s ex-wife who, for some reason, is invited to Christmas dinner despite the fact that she and Hank cannot stay in the same room for more than a few minutes without fighting. Buddy and Ruby (Seyfried) have a touching relationship somewhat intertwined with Hank and Hank and Angie’s teenage son is going through growing pains of his own with a crush who works at the mall.
Whew. Yes, there’s a lot going on, but Love the Coopers never felt muddled to me. Watching Charlotte and Sam’s marriage disintegrate over a trip not taken is heartbreaking, but I got the impression that their arguments gave their marriage hope of survival. They were willing to fight in an effort to reach the other and find some understanding and common ground. Diane Keaton is amazing, as usual, as was John Goodman. They’re the glue that holds the entire family, and movie, together and they do it wonderfully.
This movie is not as dramatic as some in the same genre, but it’s absolutely worth a watch. It has a lot of laughs, many attributed to June Squibb who plays Sam’s eccentric aunt, and an earnest ending that leaves you feeling quite warm and full of the Christmas spirit.