Reel Corner - December 2015

Holidays Bring Families Together for Better or Worse

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by Donne Paine

Films about families can be powerful in many ways: Reminding us not to take our relatives for granted; showing us the love of a parent is never ending; missing those who are departed; or that it’s okay to make a statement that’s not always popular in order to move on.

Whether a drama, comedy or offbeat romance, films about families are often cathartic and offer the viewer a double dose of escapism and self-reflection.

Over the years, holiday films about families are usually a mix that spotlight shifts between siblings and the relationship with their parents, whether for good, bad or comedy value.

Sentimental holiday comedies tend to have formulaic conflicts. Love the Coopers won’t join A Christmas Carol or It’s A Wonderful Life as top-rated Christmas films of all time, but hey… it was filmed in Pittsburgh (my territory) and features such iconic Pittsburgh locations as Phipps Conservatory, the Smithfield and Hot Metal bridges, the incredible Pittsburgh skyline and yes, one more thing—a young actor making his screen debut, Mr. Sean Magee.*

PG-13  |  Directed by Jessie Nelson
Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Ed Helms, Alan Arkin, Julie Squibb, Amanda Seyfried, Olivia Wilde, Marisa Tomei, Sean Magee, Jake Lacy

The film and character development use the backstory reflection style. You even get a little history from the pet dog Rags.

The cast is strong and the acting flawless. And yes, the theme seems like another dysfunctional family holiday romantic comedy, but it holds curious interest to see if and how the characters will survive as they come together for their Christmas Eve dinner.

The 40-year-old marriage of Charlotte (Keaton) and Sam (Goodman) is fragile. Eleanor (Wilde), their daughter, picks up an Army soldier (Lacy) at the airport and convinces him to come for dinner so her parents won’t ask who she is dating. Helms, as Eleanor’s brother, is struggling with single parenting and finding a new job.

Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Tomei), harbors bitter sibling rivalry, which comes out as she shops for her sister’s Christmas gift.

Charlotte and Emma’s dad, widower (Arkin), feels much closer to a young waitress (Seyfried)  than to his own daughters and he invites the young girl to Christmas Eve. Aunt Fishy (Squibb) is added to the mix who is a daffy as her name.

Love the Coopers satisfies some nostalgic urges with a heavy dose of reality.
As your friends and family gather during the holidays, bring out the classics; Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Christmas Carol,  National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, Scrooged and maybe take them to see Love the Coopers.


*For a film enthusiast, the Sundance film festival was a must and in 2001 I began going every year for the next seven years. I traveled to Park City with my nephew (now a film maker) and his friend Sean Magee.

In his first speaking role, Mr. Sean Magee is listed in the credits of Love the Coopers, playing Alan Arkin’s younger self as “Young Bucky.” Kudos to Sean. He did a great job and is very convincing as a young Arkin.

Wishing the readers of Pink and The Reel Corner the very best
wishes for a Happy, Healthy Holiday season and remember—
to get through it, don’t take life so seriously.

Donne Paine, film enthusiast, once lived around the corner from the Orson Wells Theater in Cambridge, Mass., where her strong interest in films, especially independent ones, began. She was a 12-year member of the Hilton Head Second Sunday Film Society, and frequent visitor to the Sundance Film Festival. To support her habit of frequent movie going, Donne is an executive recruiter and staff development consultant. Are you interested in joining a film club? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..