Love the Coopers spurs questions about family strife under holiday stress

by Bob Brown
Posted 11/17/15, 01:05 pm

Love the Coopers consists of six individual tales of family members spanning four generations, all of whom eventually converge around a large dining room table on Christmas Eve. A sunup-to-sundown soap opera, the film serves up an assorted menu of strained relationships common to many families. Moviegoers might ask themselves questions the film’s characters don’t, such as, why is brokenness unmistakable? How do we know it’s not such a wonderful life?

Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton) have been married for 40 years but are planning to divorce after the holiday season. “You agreed to one last Christmas,” Charlotte reminds him, “and then move out.”

Charlotte’s father, Bucky (Alan Arkin), learns his favorite waitress, Ruby (Amanda Seyfried), is quitting her job and leaving town. They’ve enjoyed a friendship for five years. Although he’s a half-century older than she is, they have unprofessed crushes on each other.

Sam and Charlotte’s daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde), is secretly dating a married doctor, but at the airport she meets Joe (Jake Lacy), a Christian. She convinces him to be her “prop”—to come to dinner and convince her family she’s finally met a nice guy. As they get to know each other, Eleanor disparages his conservative beliefs, but Joe ably points out the folly in her ways.

Sam and Charlotte’s son, Hank (Ed Helms), is reeling from a divorce, a job loss, and three children who are acting out.

Got it? There’ll be a quiz after the cranberries.

Love the Coopers (rated PG-13 for language, thematic elements, and some sexuality) is not destined to become a holiday classic. But the film unwittingly raises questions that surface whenever people spurn God’s boundaries for sex and marriage and fly by the seat of their hot pants: Why do the film’s characters feel that family and marriage are worth fighting for? Why do they (and all of us) experience deep discontentment with relationships that don’t square with biblical teaching?

“I can’t imagine putting my life on the line for anything,” the adulterous Eleanor tells Joe. “What if I’m wrong?”

Yes, what if?

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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