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Dustin Putman

Love the Coopers  (2015)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
3 Stars
(Release Date: February 9, 2016) – Color me perplexed over the critical venom "Love the Coopers" ignited upon its November 2015 theatrical release. Having now seen the film twice—once on the big screen, again on Blu-ray—it delivers in every way a Christmas-set family comedy should. Director Jessie Nelson (2001's "I Am Sam") and writer Steven Rogers (2007's "P.S. I Love You") have made a slice-of-life both light and starry, thoughtful and sweet, understanding of the ruminative, even mournful truths of the holiday season while nonetheless capable of putting one in the holiday spirit.

Set over one eventful Pittsburgh-set Christmas Eve, the Cooper clan are reuniting for their annual celebration hosted by parents Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton). This year, however, Sam and Charlotte are holding onto a secret: they are planning to separate once the holidays are over. Also set to attend: the couple's grown son Hank (Ed Helms), a father of three going through a divorce and struggling to find a job while working as a mall photographer; their daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), a struggling playwright and disbeliever in love who bonds with soldier Joe (Jake Lacy) at the airport; Charlotte's lonely younger sister Emma (Marisa Tomei), arrested by troubled police officer Williams (Anthony Mackie) for attempting to steal a brooch at the mall, and Charlotte's widower father Bucky (Alan Arkin), saddened to learn the diner waitress he has befriended, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), is moving away. All of these lives and more are watched over omnisciently by a mysterious narrator whose identity will be revealed by movie's end.

"Love the Coopers" isn't immune to a few over-the-top moments and it never met a well-trodden plot device it didn't like, but its unabashed heart and hopefulness is akin to a warm, cozy knitted throw. The interwoven narrative and whimsical literary telling emits the feeling of devouring a good book, while the ensemble is uniformly excellent, with special notice going to John Goodman (2014's "The Monuments Men") for his poignantly underplayed work as a man struggling to keep up appearances while coming to terms over losing the partner with whom he thought he would be spending the rest of his life. Meanwhile, the snowy Pennsylvania setting gives the picture a comfortable working-class glow, and the soundtrack (featuring Fleet Foxes, Sting, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Sixpence None the Richer, and many more) is astutely chosen. "Love the Coopers" stretches believability with its timeline, sometimes hilariously—Emma's ride across town to the police station as she acts as therapist to Williams takes the better part of a full day and evening—but these discrepancies are easy to overlook when the emotions of its characters more often than not ring so true. Making a nice companion piece with another Diane Keaton-starring Yuletide dramedy, 2005's "The Family Stone," "Love the Coopers" is affectionate and unassumingly wise.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

"Love the Coopers" has its golden aura and wintry landscapes on lock in a lovely 1080p transfer. Slickly photographed by Elliot Davis (2015's "Miss You Already"), the film is polished yet surprisingly gritty on occasion with moody interior lighting and rich black levels. Deceptively looking like 35mm film, the image holds an aesthetic thickness and detail that is unmistakably high-def without the artificial sheen of its digital source. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio flourishes via its active, immersive musical selections and the full-bodied depth of its dialogue.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Making the Coopers" Featurette (12:12, HD)
  • "Rags the Dog" Featurette (1:16, HD)
  • "Fun on Set" Featurette (0:54, HD)
  • Music Video: "The Light of Christmas Day," performed by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (3:21, HD)
Bottom Line
Take a look at the Valentine's-targeted packaging of Lionsgate's and CBS Films' Blu-ray release of "Love the Coopers," and one would never be able to guess this is a Christmas movie; even the synopsis talks of a "family reunion" with nary a mention of the holiday at its center. This deceptive promotional ploy has no bearing on the film proper, of course. Unfairly derided upon initial release, "Love the Coopers" is a warm, earnest, feel-good entertainment. Highly recommended, though you may want to wait until the Christmas season to give it a watch.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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