“Love the Coopers”
Charlotte and Sam Cooper (Keaton and Goodman) have been married for over 40 years, but most of them have been unhappy. They decide to have one last family holiday before going their separate ways. Their guests include their two grown children Hank and Eleanor (Helms and Wilde), their three grandchildren, Charlotte’s father Bucky (Arkin), her younger sister Emma (Tomei), his aunt Fishy (Squib) and the family dog.
In family dramas like Love the Coopers, everything hinges on the relationships and the relatability of the characters. Only one of the stories really works: Eleanor is a playwright whose career seems to have fizzled after a hot start. She spends a few hours at the airport, not wanting to go home for fear of conflict, where she ends up meeting soldier Joe (Lacy), who gets wrangled into becoming her boyfriend for the holiday to take away that stinging of failure. Their chemistry is really strong and their story arc is even stronger, thankfully taking up a plurality of the movie. You believe this story of opposites attract. You’ll believe in them as characters and as a couple. You’ll end up believing that they should have been the focus of the movie.
The rest of the movie gets bogged down by the questionable age-appropriateness of many elements of the story. Keaton and Goodman are fine as wife and husband, and that’s the problem: they’re just fine. They are the center of the movie and their story of a happy marriage got sour years ago never feels genuine because, well, their chemistry is so strong when they aren’t screaming at each other. Bucky’s story revolves around his relationship with a much, much younger waitress Ruby (Seyfried). Their story is cute for a while before it gets really creepy. When it intersects with another character’s story, it gets less creepy but the issue remains the same. Seyfried, at age 29, but looking much younger, was too young to play the part opposite 81-year-old Arkin. Ruby should have been 7 or 8 years older, at least.
Hank is unemployed, in the middle of an ugly divorce (note: his wife was still invited to dinner and showed up) and at a loss connecting with his kids. But his story feels like a lot of him was left on the cutting room floor or his character is so uninteresting that, a week later, I completely forgot his purpose for existing. Of the five in that family, the eldest child has the most special story and is so compelling that I can’t describe any detail of it without ruining the whole thing. And Emma…yeah, let’s not go there. Emma ends up in the back of a police car basically talking Anthony Mackie into living life as he needs to. Their story is useless and Emma is only of any use in the third act drama with her sister.
Director Jessie Nelson (Corrina, Corrina; I Am Sam) and screenwriter Steven Rogers (Hope Floats, Kate and Leopold) at least attempt to create something here, even if it isn’t unique and just completely derivative of so many other movies. But it isn’t awful. The actors aren’t phoning it in like I’ve seen each one of them do at least once in their careers. Their work separately and together makes me believe a rewrite or two could have made a movie I could recommend to older folks looking for a nice time at the movies. Alas, I can’t here.