Cooper's Bar Review

(The SXSW Film Festival may have been cancelled, but our coverage will go on with reviews of films and TV shows made available to our critics.)

Los Angeles is a tough city. It’s filled with dreams and aspiring who-knows-whats all just trying to make their dreams come true. Some hustle hard enough to break through, others get flat out lucky. The rest? Well, the rest just find themselves with a lot of broken dreams and empty bank accounts. Cooper’s Bar takes a look at two men who are hoping to fall somewhere in those first two categories and desperately trying to avoid becoming the third.

When Cooper (Louis Mustillo) finds himself out of work, he heads to his backyard bar to dream of returning to New York and never dealing with any of this acting nonsense ever again. He’s got one last hope, and then he’s calling it quits! His buddy Brandon (Casey Washington), on the other hand, is still a man with a dream. He’s going to get that pro-life zombie movie (show?) of his made if it’s the last thing he does!  

The two men’s hopes rest with one Kris Latimer, a high-profile Hollywood producer. While this is, in his mind, his last chance, Cooper’s positive that Latimer won’t show. But the ever-hopeful Brandon is proven right when a smart dressed (and smart-mouthed) woman stomps her way into Cooper’s backyard tiki bar. That woman is Kris Latimer(Rhea Seehorn). The boys were definitely expecting a dude. 

After a series of unfortunate events that include an agonizingly uncomfortable pitch and Brandon on the ground unconscious, these two opposites somehow manage to convince Latimer that they’re worth taking a chance on. Cooper’s Bar is a quick, easy, and occasionally painfully realistic pilot. Any artist out there chasing their dreams will find something recognizable. 

Its runtime is short, but it still manages to toss a little commentary in there. The boys both expect the high profile and extremely powerful Kris Latimer to be a man. Meanwhile, Latimer herself assumes Cooper’s wife Mary (Kila Kitu) is the valet. The series looks to be the type where everyone’s a jerk in one way or another, but they glean tiny life lessons from the folks around them who are a different kind of jerk? I got some It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia vibes from this one. It’s snarky, but it’s got heart. 

It’s weird to talk about in a comedy pilot, but the set itself is actually very cool. Cooper’s Bar is this stunning backyard tiki situation with tons of lights and fun baubles. It’s a standout environment in which to set a show.

The pilot is a quick and easy laugh. Its characters might be trying too hard, but the script isn’t. Though the Brandon character is hard to get a read on in this first episode (what’s the deal with that pro-life zombie situation, bud?) the rest of the cast all fills their niche roles nicely. Cooper’s Bar has heart to it, and I hope to see it picked up once the world stops being closed. 

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