Love The Coopers

Every family is dysfunctional to a degree, some more than others. The Coopers, Sam (John Goodman) and Charlotte (Diane Keaton), a couple whose 40-year marriage has lost its energy, have a family with issues galore. Charlotte wants one more happy family Christmas celebration before they split.

Love, The Coopers is like an edgier Hallmark Christmas movie, with cast members who are better known. Like a Hallmark movie, things generally work out. Like a Hallmark movie, there are few non-white faces. Unlike a Hallmark movie, a few impolite phrases are uttered and bodily functions draw attention. But don’t worry: LTC is safely PG-13.

Cooper offspring include Hank (Ed Helms) and Eleanor (Olivia Wilde). Hank’s marriage to Angie (Alex Borstein, best known as the voice of Lois Griffin on Family Guy) is breaking up. Among their three kids is son Charlie (Timothee Chalet) who is at that awkward age and is especially awkward at kissing.

Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) is a flirty type who picks up cute serviceman Joe (Jack Lacy) at the airport and drags him to the family’s Christmas Eve dinner as her pretend boyfriend. Their verbal jousting (over political and religious differences) provides some of the film’s highlights.

Emma (Marisa Tomei) is Charlotte’s younger sister with whom a sibling rivalry persists. She is busted for shoplifting at the mall. She does some amateur counseling from the back seat of the patrol car for the quiet cop (Anthony Mackie), who opens up about his sexuality.

Guests at the Christmas dinner table also include Charlotte and Emma’s dad Bucky (Alan Arkin) and his favorite diner waitress Ruby (Amanda Seyfried). Also, an addled aunt played by June Squibb is more cute than funny. Narration for the story is by Steve Martin.

Love, The Coopers—I added the comma to indicate that it refers to a Christmas card signature, not a command—is a not unpleasant holiday film. But it’s not as touching as The Family Stone (which also starred Keaton) or It’s A Wonderful Life, not as funny as Christmas Vacation or the Santa Clause movies. I’d put it right around Christmas With The Kranks level in the Christmas movie rankings.

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And So It Goes

 

And So It Goes is a nice, sweet, occasionally funny romantic comedy for older people. It stars Michael Douglas, age 69, and Diane Keaton, age 68. Rob Reiner, age 67, is the director. Good to see that some outfits still hire people over 60!

Oren (Douglas) is a real estate salesman who has issues: resentment, anger, selfishness, etc. A decade after his wife’s death, he’s selling his family home in a well-to-do Connecticut community. He has moved into a four-plex next door to a widow, Leah (Keaton). She is a torch song singer who often becomes so emotionally involved in her songs that she often can’t finish her set.

Oren’s ex-addict adult son Kyle (Austin Lysy) saddles Oren with a 10-year-old granddaughter to care for while Kyle goes to jail. When Oren is initially cool to the girl, Leah is warm and welcoming. Young Sarah (Sterling Jerins) even calls Leah “grandma.” Over time Oren’s heart softens and he works to heal the emotional damage in his life. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to share that he falls hard for Leah.

And So It Goes has a decent number of laughs scattered neatly throughout the film, along with a couple of comic characters. Reiner appears as Leah’s accompanist (and would-be suitor) Artie wearing a laughably horrible toupee. Presumably to make the lead characters appear younger by comparison, Oren’s co-worker Claire (84-year-old Francis Sternhagen) is a hoot as a chain-smoking quipster.

And So It Goes is another film with a generic title that gives little clue as to the film’s content. (Other recent films guilty of this same crime include Begin Again and Enough Said.) Are all the good titles taken?

Because older folks do go to movies, it’s good to see a film with mature lead characters in theaters. And So It Goes is not a film that makes a big impact, but it’s likely to make people—especially fans of Douglas and Keaton—happy. And that, as Martha Stewart likes to say, is a good thing.

The Big Wedding

The Big Wedding is a big mess. First clue: all-star cast. Second clue: gratuitous f-bombs and a few seconds of nudity designed to clinch an R rating. Third clue: a contract required by Lionsgate, insuring that I will reveal nothing about the movie before 9:00 p.m. CDT on April 25 and will share no spoilers ever.

There are some laughs, to be sure, in The Big Wedding, though not as many as one might hope for. The set-up: Robert DeNiro and Diane Keaton are exes. Susan Sarandon is DeNiro’s girlfriend. Adopted son is about to get married. Son’s bio-mom from Colombia is strict Catholic who doesn’t believe in divorce, so son asks DeNiro and Keaton to pretend they’re still wed while bio-mom is visiting. Hey, successful film and TV comedies have been built around flimsier situations.

The bride (Amanda Seyfried), her parents, other extended family and even the priest (Robin Williams) provide additional sub-set-ups. In most cases, you can figure out exactly what’s going to happen.

Apparently Topher Grace is now out of the witness protection program or rehab or wherever he’s been. He plays DeNiro/Keaton’s son who receives a dinner table sexual favor in a scene that was much funnier eight years ago in Wedding Crashers. Katherine Heigl, whose ’09 movie The Ugly Truth similarly ramped up the raunch, rendering an R-rated romcom, plays Topher’s sad sister.

The Big Wedding provides a modest amount of amusement. It runs just 90 minutes which means, with 20 minutes of trailers beforehand, you’ll barely have time to finish that mondo-size box of Raisinets.

The cumulative star power of a movie like The Big Wedding (and various Garry Marshall holiday-related films) actually can, I believe, make such a movie more bearable. On the other hand, if you go because you particularly like one individual star in the cast, you will inevitably be disappointed because your favorite has to share his or her screen time with so many others.

And maybe the R rated content will please many who tire of formulaic PG-13 romantic comedy fare that toes the line. In a world with HBO and Showtime original content dialing up the sex/language quotient, The Big Wedding could be right on the money with its f-bombs and bare butt. But I don’t think so.

(Special note to the Lionsgate legal team vetting this review for spoilers: I’m flattered that you care! Reminder: If you were required to watch this mess, that’s 1.5 billable hours!)

 

 

Flight

“Flight” features another outstanding performance from Denzel Washington. His character is a complex man with a big problem that leads to an even bigger problem.

Washington plays “Whip” Whittaker, a commercial airline pilot. On a short hop from Orlando to Atlanta, his plane has mechanical trouble. He uses his skill as a pilot to crash land the plane with minimal loss of life and is hailed as a hero.

When the NTSB investigates the crash, evidence shows that he was flying the plane drunk and high on coke. His alcoholism, which has led the to end of his marriage and his estrangement from his teenaged son, is a demon he tries to defeat. After he comes to the rescue of a recovering junkie and she becomes his live-in gal pal, she takes him with her to AA. He walks out of the meeting.

The two questions to be resolved: Will he be prosecuted for flying drunk? And will he be able to stay on the wagon for more than a few days at a time?

The supporting cast is a good one. Bruce Greenwood is the pilot’s union leader who offers solid support after the crash. Don Cheadle plays the pilot’s union attorney who works to get Whip’s evidence suppressed. John Goodman plays Whip’s longtime buddy and booze/drug connection. A woman who looks like she could be Diane Keaton’s daughter, Kelly Reilly, is the ex-junkie girlfriend. Melissa Leo is the NTSB administrator who conducts the climactic hearing.

The film gives us just enough of Whip’s personal struggle without bogging down the plot. Director Robert Zemeckis combines the storytelling and the character study nicely. Zemeckis, who has delivered memorable images in previous hits, also brings to “Flight” a plane crash that looks amazingly real.

It’s my opinion that any movie starring Denzel Washington is worth seeing. This may not be his best movie ever (nor is it the best ever from Zemeckis), but it’s darn good—a solid effort from all concerned. I like it.