Love the Coopers Parent Review
Surprisingly, amidst this trashy tinsel of dysfunctional family members and sexual dialogue are some positive themes that really shine.
Antici-pointment. No, it is not really a word, but it certainly does describe the way anticipation can meet with disappointment. Although the idea of combining the two definitions is credited to Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), the reality is there are many people suffering from that feeling. And little wonder—especially during all the hype of the holiday season.
On this particular December 24, the Coopers are preparing for a spectacular Christmas dinner, hosted by Charlotte (Dianne Keaton). Yet only her husband Sam (John Goodman) knows that the reason for her obsessive fussing is because this will be the last supper the family will enjoy together before the couple, who have been married for forty years, announce their intention to break up. Their son Hank (Ed Helms) is also having a difficult time keeping things merry and bright for his three kids, due to his recent divorce and job loss. Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) keeps up the pretense of sharing a loving bond, however she spitefully shoplifts the gift intended for her older sibling. The girls’ father Bucky (Alan Arkin) secretly finds more happiness from the friendship of Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), a young waitress at a restaurant he frequents, than he does from his daughters. And that brings us back to Eleanor, the cynical offspring of Charlotte and Sam, who arrives at the airport and stays at the bar rather than head home where she expects to face the disapproving faces of her worried parents.
If this seems like a lot of characters to keep track of (and there are a few more that I didn’t mention), don’t worry. Rags the dog (voice of Steve Martin) narrates all the way through, keeping track of all of the details along with explaining their various back-stories. And what results is a more poignant tale then I was expecting.
If the promotions for this movie left you convinced this would be a glimpse into the dysfunctional private lives of a group of people, sprinkled with as many rude jokes and crude comments as the snowflakes falling on the winter landscape, you weren’t wrong. Sexual dialogue, a complacent attitude about adultery and unmarried intimate relations, flatulence jokes, a nod for recreational drug use and even disparaging remarks about God, are all part of the humor presented in this script. That is the disappointing side.
The thing I didn’t anticipate was that amidst this trashy tinsel are some themes that really shine. Charlotte and Sam’s real problem is that they have lost sight of one another over the many years of sacrificing for their children. Hank is so afraid of letting others down that he’s forgotten how to find the courage to get up and try again. Emma’s belief that she will always be second to her sister has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Grandpa Bucky discovers he can share Ruby’s goodness without losing the joy it brings to him. And even Eleanor finds her sour demeanor beginning to change, thanks to a sweet stranger (Jake Lacy).
There is a good chance you may have a few realizations yourself as you watch these characters working through their perception issues and reactions to life’s disappointments. (Okay, maybe I’m a bit too protective as a mother sometimes…) Still, whether or not the value of these messages will be worth overlooking all the crass clutter they are wrapped in, will be a personal question that could end in either antici-proval or antici-pointment.Directed by Jessie Nelson. Starring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Olivia Wilde, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei . Running time: 118 minutes. Updated May 12, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Love the Coopers here.
Love the Coopers Parents Guide
The narrator tells us that the characters in this film as re “Looking for joy, but can’t find it.” Where is this elusive emotion eventually found? What was hiding it?
Several of the characters in this movie have been given labels, such as “dyslexic” or a “mistake”. How do these descriptions shape the way the characters see themselves? What are the dangers of using such titles to describe others? Can adjectives ever be used in a way that might help or empower someone?
How does the depicted commercialization of the holiday season act as a metaphor for the anticipation of the celebration? How can great expectations create even greater disappointments? How often does reality live up to our dreams? What things can we do to help us deal with these differences?
How is Charlotte’s desire to create the perfect Christmas just a façade to hide the imperfections in her life? Have you ever tried to assume a false face for similar reasons? Why is this strategy unlikely to help or fix the problem?
What is the importance of the missed trip to Africa that the Coopers had planned to take thirty years before? What does it really represent for the couple? Why is this unresolved issue tearing their relationship apart?
Eleanor complains that her parents as always yelling and fighting. The soldier she meets at the airport interprets those actions as signs of passion and working out differences. Why do they see these things so differently? What might make these behaviors strengthening for one couple, while destructive for another?