This may look like it's going to be a zany Christmas romp, but it's really a warm exploration of family connections, essentially an American take on Love Actually's multi-strand comedy-drama. At least it has an unusually strong cast and moments of hilarity scattered throughout the story. And while it's never very deep, the themes are strongly resonant.
The Cooper family is gathering for what Charlotte (Diane Keaton) hopes will be one last perfect Christmas together. She knows that her 40-year marriage to Sam (John Goodman) is on the brink, but is ignoring that to plan a massive dinner. Their son Hank (Ed Helms) is stinging from divorce and unemployment, while daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) has picked up a hunky soldier (Jake Lacy) in the airport and asks him to pose as her boyfriend so her family will stop asking about her love life. Meanwhile, Charlotte's father Bucky (Alan Arkin) is trying to cheer up his favourite waitress (Amanda Seyfried), and Charlotte's sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) is delayed when a cop (Anthony Mackie) arrests her for shoplifting.
Narrated with wry joviality by Steve Martin, the interwoven stories are fairly simplistic, but each touches a raw nerve. And the above-average cast brings out the underlying themes without overplaying their scenes. Keaton and Goodman add subtle shades to the slightly undemanding central roles, while Arkin finds a couple of new textures to his usual twinkly grandad persona. Helms and Wilde strike the right balance in their intriguingly unlikeable roles, while Tomei gets the most complex character as a woman who feels like she's merely watched her life drift along. By contrast, the outsiders played by Seyfried, Lacy and Mackie are much less defined, but each actor brings just enough magnetic energy. The most wasted performer is June Squibb, as a ditzy old aunt who's little more than the requisite gross-out relative.
Continue reading: Love The Coopers (aka Christmas With The Coopers) Review
Charlotte Cooper is the family matriarch and all she wants is for her family to be together at Christmas. All her children are now grown up and some have kids of their own. Like most families, their bond over the years might've loosened slightly as day to day life gets in the way but Christmas is different, it's a time to reunite and enjoy the holidays together.
Easier said than done with the Cooper's. Charlotte and her husband have decided to divorce (a secret they plan on keeping from the family as to not destroy the family break) their oldest daughter lives in another state, is out of work and has been dumped by her partner and is hates the idea of going home and facing the family whilst their son is currently dealing with his daughters back-chatting ways. As many problems are there are, there must be a way through in the spirit of Christmas.
Director Jessie Nelson has described The Coopers as The Christmas Von Trapp family commenting: "I like to say The Coopers are The von Trapps of this Christmas. They are the von Coopers,"
Opening with an annoying, clichéd fight between Holly (Hilary Swank) and husband Gerry (Gerard Butler), P.S. I Love You quickly takes a turn for the worse with Gerry's death right after the opening credits. Of course, Gerry was the perfect man and devised a plan to send several letters to his widowed wife to help her through her grief after he's passed away. But the film wheels these emotions with no regard for the impact on the characters. Holly's grief is dealt with the same way the film approaches the couple's happy flashbacks -- barely scratching the surface and relying on the sentimental, such as personal trinkets and highlights from their relationship.
Continue reading: P.S. I Love You Review
And not only is the storytelling sharp, but the characters are too. Meg Ryan (not too perky, not too whiny) is Kate McKay, working her way up the NYC corporate ladder, but too busy for love after a four-year relationship with her brilliant ex, Stuart (Liev Schreiber). When Stuart discovers an open portal in the fabric of time -- you have to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge at just the right time -- he accidentally brings the 19th century Duke back to modern-day New York. Everyone involved, including Ryan's kid brother Charlie (the underrated Breckin Meyer), clearly has some baggage and life experience, and Mangold's script (co-written with Steven Rogers) clues us in without clobbering us.
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