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quinta-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2015

Christmas with the Coopers review: ‘ghastly’

This overcrowded home-for-the-holidays family comedy feels like a desperate matchmaking exercise
Christmas with the Coopers, an angsty home-for-the-holidays dramedy with star names dangling from it like saggy baubles, is being released in the US as Love the Coopers: an ironic imperative, one has to hope, since this lot are borderline ghastly. Even by the standards of the bickering WASP families so beloved of mid-range American drama, their company is on the grating side – not so much because it’s especially shrill, just exhaustingly been-there-done-that.
Pittsburgh ma and pa Charlotte (Diane Keaton) and Sam (John Goodman) are supposedly the linchpins, to whose cheerily spacious home four generations drag themselves every Yule. But there’s trouble in paradise – though no one knows, they’re on the brink of divorce after 40 years.
Their son Hank (Ed Helms) has already gone down that road, and finds himself unemployed as a father of two, while daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is a failed playwright having an affair with a married man; grandpa Bucky (Alan Arkin) is heartbroken because his favourite waitress (Amanda Seyfried) is leaving town; Charlotte’s sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) gets caught shoplifting; and memory-impaired spinster Aunt Fishy (Nebraska’s June Squibb) sits around emitting the occasional fart and blaming it on the family dog. June and her squibbs!
Christmas with the Coopers
Tedious old scores: the squabbling cast make you dream of ways to prune the ensemble downCredit: CBS Films Inc/Suzanne Tenner
It’s a good hour before this clan are assembled, and the cross-cutting between their various journeys and squabbling preparations makes you dream of ways to prune the ensemble down: a Cooper scooper would be worth its weight in gold.
Poor Tomei, already miscast by virtue of being 19 years Keaton’s junior, gets the shortest of short straws, when she stuffs an expensive brooch in her mouth and finds herself escorted downtown by an officious cop (Anthony Mackie). He turns out to be gay, and they share their sob stories in a weirdly curtailed subplot which gets the film nowhere.
Keaton and Goodman ought to be fallback champs at this sort of stuff, but their scenes together are the dullest in the movie, like sitcom routines without the punchlines. If one person seems energised – perhaps unexpectedly so – it’s Wilde, whose character picks up a God-fearing soldier (Jake Lacy) at the airport and decides to borrow him in a ruse to make her family think she’s on the straight and narrow.
This silly bit of romcom plotting has no greater claim on your heartstrings than anything else, but Wilde and Lacy do click, and their conspiratorial air is something of a relief, given all the tedious old scores being dredged up elsewhere.
There are a few hints of honest feeling trying to burst through. The trouble is how insistent writer-director Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) is at gift-wrapping everyone’s story arcs with tidy, coupley closure. She pairs the cast off so relentlessly, it becomes less a film about family’s broad embrace than a slightly desperate matchmaking exercise, like a game of musical chairs under multiple sprigs of mistletoe.

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