People Like Us

An emotional family drama hardly seems like familiar ground for producer Alex Kurtzman. He and his writing partner Roberto Orci usually go for the bang of Transformers, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible III. Yet here's Kurtzman making his directing debut with a drama loosely based on his family. Orci and Jody Lambert helped Kurtzman with the script about Sam (Chris Pine), a slick salesman, who learns that Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), an alcoholic bartender and single mom, is the half-sister he never knew he had. It took the death of Sam's dad to let the cat out. Sam's mom (a luminous Michelle Pfeiffer) never told him. And Sam is real slow to tell Frankie, as he gets closer to her and her young son (Michael Hall D'Addario). "I'll never hit on you – ever," he tells Frankie.

Kurtzman directs with such energy and passion you keep hoping the film won't sink into melodramatic quicksand. It does. What keeps it from getting sucked under is the live-wire acting. Pine is driven and touchingly vulnerable. And Banks, heartbreakingly good, nails every nuance in a raw wound of a role. Thanks to their teamwork, we believe we are watching people like us.

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From The Archives Issue 1160: July 5, 2012