Love the Coopers—The Coopers, and their extremely First-World problems, being:
Dad (John Goodman) wants to leave mom (Diane Keaton) because he’s sick of her putting the concerns of their grown kids ahead of their own relationship. She’s talked him into sticking around for one more picturesque family Christmas in their handsome suburban Pittsburgh home.
Meanwhile, Gramps (Alan Arkin) has bonded with a young diner waitress (Amanda Seyfried) and now she’s planning to move away. Son (Ed Helms) has lost his job, and is hiding it from his family. Daughter (Olivia Wilde), dawdling in the Pittsburgh airport, meets a handsome young solider (Jake Lacy) on his way to deployment and talks him into posing as her boyfriend for the holiday in hopes of avoiding the disappointed, disapproving, worried looks of her parents.
Gee, wouldn’t it be something if two of them actually fell in love?
Middle-class whining about what a drag it is to spend time with your family at the holidays is theme which the movies have pretty thoroughly explored over the last few decades. Indeed, Keaton has already starred in a similar ensemble comedy-drama, The Family Stone, back in 2005. She’s one of the executive-producers of Love the Coopers, so she must like this sort of thing, or at least like the sort of money it can make.
Directed by Jessie Nelson from a script by Steven Rogers (which went into production under the better title The Most Wonderful Time), Love the Coopers is slickly produced and more watchable than it really deserves to be. Partly this is thanks to a Starbucks-compilation-CD-style soundtrack of genteel holiday numbers, including Sting’s lovely version of “Soul Cake.” Partly it’s because of the underrated winter beauty of Pittsburgh.
But mostly, as you might guess, it’s because of the ability of that cast to engage, even with fairly blah material. Along with the above, by the way, the ensemble includes June Squibb as a dotty old aunt, and Marisa Tomei and Anthony Mackie as, respectively, Keaton’s shoplifting sister and the cop stuck with taking her in. This promises to become the most interesting strand—Mackie gives his role a little tension and sting, and he and Tomei have a nice rapport—but it peters out without a real payoff.
There’s also narration, but both the (unmistakable) voice of the famous speaker and the identity of the narrator seem meant to be a surprise until the end credits.