Love the Coopers makes a meal out of the festive season

Diane Keaton and John Goodman are just two of the starry cast on show in Love the Coopers.
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Diane Keaton and John Goodman are just two of the starry cast on show in Love the Coopers.

Imagine Christmas dinner crossed with Groundhog Day.

Love the Coopers spent four days filming a holiday meal that could give Martha Stewart a run for her money. Not to mention calories and polished presentation.

The dining room table and kitchen island were laden with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, apple chutney, dump salad (lime Jell-O, cottage cheese, crushed pineapple and Cool Whip), breads and pear streusel cake, for starters, thanks to food stylist Melissa McSorley and property master Ellen Freund.

Sitting around the feast were Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Olivia Wilde, Jake Lacy, Ed Helms, Marisa Tomei, June Squibb, Amanda Seyfried, Alex Borstein and a few others.

"Initially, that scene had so much energy and the actors were doing such beautiful work, and by the second or third day, I thought, 'where is the energy?' And they were all in a carbo coma. They all fell in love with Melissa's stuffing. They all had their favourites," director Jessie Nelson says.

"They did a wonderful job of keeping the consistency and making you really feel like you were at a dinner and time was passing."

Adding authenticity was Rags, played by a part Saint Bernard-part Australian shepherd named Bolt, who gobbles dog biscuits masquerading as Christmas cookies, among other treats.

"He's the Marlon Brando of dogs, I call him. He's an extraordinary actor, that dog.

"The trainer would come to work every day having read the scene thoroughly and giving me 10 choices of how Rags could interpret the scene. He could be sad that his owners are fighting, he could be angry, he could be confused, he could put his paw over his head," or share a plate of food and fork with Squibb's Aunt Fishy.

"She felt Aunt Fishy would do that. I took my hat off to June."

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Love the Coopers, once called Let It Snow, features four generations of a family navigating their way through Christmas Eve in Pittsburgh.

"Every time I see the movie, I'm just so struck by how blessed I was with this cast. They're just extraordinary actors. Every time any of them get up to bat in a scene, they're just doing such great work," the director says.

"And also, not to sound schmaltzy, but I was really lucky to shoot in Pittsburgh. The city looks so perfect for the film – it's just beautiful. There's such a warmth to it, also."

Nelson, who counts "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Love Actually" as her favourite holiday films (until now), says, "I think times are tough for people so the idea of bringing some joy into the world is meaningful.

"I think there is the feeling of the challenges of family and the messiness and insanity of all those dynamics and yet how important that is and how meaningful it is, and I don't just mean the family you're born into, I feel it's families people create, also.

"I always feel like you just want people's hearts to get opened," she said, and in an ideal world, "You come out of the movie appreciating the people in your life more."

TNS

Love the Coopers (PG) opens in New Zealand cinemas on November 26.

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