Christmas with the Coopers

 

starstar

 

A ragbag of disgruntled American consumers gear themselves up for the festive holiday in this largely excruciating ‘comedy’.

 

The title does rather give the game away. If you can imagine Sting on the soundtrack, Pittsburgh blanketed in white fluffy stuff and Alan Arkin doing his grumpy grandfather shtick, then you’d be even closer to the uncomfortable truth. The Coopers are a typically dysfunctional American family who feel the festive obligation to put their differences behind them in order to spend way too much money on each other and gorge themselves on Christmas day. Here we have four generations at war with each other marshalling their defences for December 25 and inevitably getting their collective knickers in a twinkly twist.

 

Christmas With the Coopers

Strife and soul of the party: Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Rags

 

The director is Jessie Nelson, she who previously helmed the seriously sentimental Corrina, Corrina and I Am Sam and co-scripted Stepmom, The Story of Us and the execrable Because I Said So starring Diane Keaton. Ms Keaton returns here as executive producer and star and we are plunged back into the domestic chaos for which Ms Nelson is known. It is not a pretty sight. This is the sort of film in which the music is relentlessly manipulative, the kids score points for uttering cuss words and the camera cuts to canine reaction shots for comic punctuation. 

 

Much of the action takes place at the mall, an even more depressingly consumerist stage than the Coopers’ ostentatious abode. All this would be unbearable were it not for a sparky cynical streak and for the odd decent performance. As Diane Keaton’s resentful daughter, Olivia Wilde revs up her acting capabilities as Eleanor, a single writer who picks up a Republican G.I. Joe (called Joe) at the airport to stand in as her boyfriend. Alan Arkin, too, is good value as an American Victor Meldrew who speaks from the hip, although his affection for a waitress (Amanda Seyfried) 52-years his junior is a little creepy. And Anthony Mackie is good as a patrolman who arrests Marisa Tomei’s kleptomaniac Emma Cooper. The others – John Goodman, Ed Helms, June Squibb and Ms Keaton – should be ashamed of themselves.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON


Cast: Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Diane Keaton, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei, Olivia Wilde, Alex Borstein, Timothée Chalamet, Steve Martin (narrator).


Dir Jessie Nelson, Pro Michael London, Jessie Nelson and Janice Williams, Screenplay Steven Rogers, Ph Elliot Davis, Pro Des Beth A. Robino, Ed Nancy Richardson, Music Nick Urata, Costumes Hope Hanafin.

 

Groundswell Productions/Handwritten Films/Imagine Entertainment-Entertainment One.
106 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 1 December 2015. Cert. 12A.