“Love the Coopers,” a new holiday film directed by Jessie Nelson and starring Diane Keaton and John Goodman as Charlotte and Sam, a couple of ex-hippies who find themselves with a large Pittsburgh family after four decades of marriage, provides all the time-honored trimmings of classic seasonal fare. There’s warm, wintry music, snowy hills full of sledders and boarders, wrapped gifts and glittering evergreens.
But there’s also something very modern about this particular family get-together: Everyone is freakin’ miserable. Mr. and Mrs. Cooper, who lost one child, have also misplaced the free-spirited joi de vivre of their generation and are using this gathering to announce plans to divorce. Their children, Hank and Eleanor (Ed Helms, Olivia Wilde), siblings and grandchildren are all in the post-recession doldrums. Their Aunt Fishy is dealing with dementia. Even the family dog is a stress eater.Is this the new Christmas film reality or just a culmination of the kind of bickering that has always been buried in the good will of the genre? George Bailey certainly frets in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he rarely kvetches. Ms. Keaton, for one, believes a move toward verisimilitude is healthy.“It’s a time of expectations, sadness, hope, worry,” Ms. Keaton, also a producer of “Love the Coopers,” said by telephone.Ms. Keaton, who dealt with holiday family dysfunction in “The Family Stone,” added, “Everybody’s had pain and anger and has been hiding things from each other and trying to pretend things are better than they are.”“Love the Coopers” aims to take that brave but dishonest face and boldly reshape it into a shouting, venting grimace. Here’s a look at other films that have tried to add bite to the occasionally bland holiday cheer: