Film review: LOVE, THE COOPERS, from ‘Built For Speed’

In 2005 Love Actually set the benchmark for rom-coms featuring a large sprawling cast of name actors playing characters whose personal and professional lives intertwine in a quirky, amusing and sometimes bittersweet fashion. Love Actually was also a Christmas movie and successfully infused its romantic tales with the elation and pain of Christmas.

Love, The Coopers attempts something similar with a name cast featuring Dianne Keaton, John Goodman, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Marissa Tomei, Ed helms and Akan Arkin coming together for a tumultuous Christmas dinner. Keaton and Goodman are a retired couple living in one of those white picket fence upper-middle class Midwestern American fantasy homes. They, like their children Hank Ed helms and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) have secrets and personal failures their trying to conceal from others: Keaton and Goodman are planning to break up, Hank has lost his job and can’t tell his parents while left-leaning Eleanor, tired of being questioned about her direction in life, dinner picks up a soldier on the way to Christmas to try and trick her family into believing she’s in a stable relationship.

Like many a Christmas comdedy/ drama, the film tries to draw on the tension between the Christmas fantasy of happiness and family unity and the reality of personal disappointments and family resentments. While the various antagonisms between characters are relatable and probably mirror a few audience members’ family situations, the drama lacks the venom of real family disputes.

The film also isn’t particularly funny with very little in the way of witty dialogue or even amusing slapstick. A few lines raise a smile but it barely registers as comedy and relies much too heavily on the family dog’s antics.

Love, the Coopers almost works as a romance with a couple of genuinely sensitive moments including some heartfelt exchanges between former teacher Bucky (Akan Arkin) and local waitress Amanda Seyfried; his infatuation with her could have been creepy but it’s actually quite touching.

Most of the cast are wasted, though, with Dianne Keaton and John Goodman given nothing in the way of memorable dialogue and Ed Helms strangely subdued. June Squibb is demeaned badly as the Grandma who is really only there to allow a few jokes belittling the elderly. The only cast member provided with anything like an interesting character is Olivia Wilde who mix of mesmerising super model looks and mildly snarky, lefty attitude makes for a beguiling combination.

The film has one other major asset some fine music. The film makers had the good sense to include a few Bob Dylan numbers and to begin the film with a modern classic White Winter Hymnal from Fleet Foxes. Otherwise, this is just pale imitation of Love Actually.

Nick’s rating: **1/2.

Genre: Romantic Comedy.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Jessie Nelson.

Release date: 26th November 2015.

Running time: 107 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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