| Adults looking for a movie about people and universal life-changing experiences will find it in this serious character drama built around terrific acting performances.
Alex Kurtzman, best known for writing and producing over the past two decades with his collaborator Bob Orci on the “Transformers” movies, the “Star Trek” reboot and the romantic comedy “The Proposal,” is making his feature film directorial debut with an intimate and personal story based on situations from his own life.
Sam Harper (Chris Pine from “Unstoppable” and “Star Trek”) is a fast-talking, twenty-something salesman. He learns that his father has died on the same day that his latest barter deal collapses and comes under the scrutiny of a federal agency investigation.
Sam, along with his girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde from “House M. D.”), reluctantly returns home to Los Angeles to pay his respects and get closure with his mother Lillian (Oscar-nominated Michelle Pfeiffer from “Hairspray” and “The Fabulous Baker Boys”).
Sam is under the impression that his financial problems are over with a hefty inheritance coming from his deceased dad’s estate. His dad was a wealthy music business bigwig. He meets his father’s attorney Ike Rafferty (Philip Baker Hall from “Modern Family”) at a local diner. His dad left him his vast vinyl record collection. He also is given his dad’s shaving kit containing $150,000 and a handwritten note.
His dad’s last wishes are to get the money to Josh Davis. The note contains an address and closes with the words-“Take care of them.”
Sam learns that the cash is meant for the nephew and the older half-sister he never knew existed.
Sam covertly tracks down single mother Frankie (Elizabeth Banks from “The Hunger Games” and “Man on a Ledge”) and her rebellious son Josh (newcomer Michael Hall D’Addario). He hangs out with them and forms an intimate emotional bond. He tries to work up the courage to tell them the truth.
This cinematic gem is the perfect counter-programming to the typical noisy summer blockbusters. It grabs you by the heartstrings and elicits a deeply felt emotional pull. The ending will leave you in tears.
Pine carries the movie with a screen charisma that makes his character believable. He becomes a kindred spirit with Banks and D’Addario exhibiting similar anger and rebellious characteristics. He carries the emotional baggage of daddy issues, but makes inroads into adulthood by taking responsibility for others.
Pfeiffer is simply amazing playing the mother and grieving widow in such a natural way. She looks slightly disheveled, but her inner beauty comes shining through the camera lens. Her maternal instincts in keeping her immediate family together to the exclusion of others is something everyone can identify with.
D’Addario makes an impressive debut as a cute and precocious kid.
The acting laurels belong to Banks who does the heavy lifting as an incredibly strong-willed character dealing with alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity and trying to raise a child while working dead-end bartending jobs. Banks is simply fantastic and deserves year-end awards recognition.
Besides the warm crowd-pleasing human interest story and the great acting performances, the movie has the added benefit of a musical score from India’s A. R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire”).
A different Los Angeles is captured on film with an emphasis on small, personal spaces.
Rather than the familiar Hollywood sign and Mann’s Chinese Theater, Kurtzman gives us Henry’s Tacos, Coles and Neptune’s Net.
Kurtzman related in an interview that some of the things in the movie actually happened to him. He knew that his father had another family but didn’t meet his half-sister until he turned 30.
The human experience is encapsulated in a treasure trove of powerful scenes that shows the importance of family much like the Oscar-nominated “The Kids Are All Right” (2010).
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"