With his writing partner Roberto Orci, Hollywood scribe Alex Kurtzman has penned more than his share of summer popcorn movies, including “Mission: Impossible III,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” the first two “Transformers” flicks and J.J. Abrams' 2009 “Star Trek” reboot.
This blockbuster season, though, Kurtzman makes his directorial debut with the intimate, affecting family drama “People Like Us,” a powerfully quiet change of pace from the showy superheroes, animated critters and computer-generated explosions that dominate cineplexes this time of year.
“Star Trek” leading man Chris Pine stars as Sam, a fast-talking New York salesman who is summoned back to his hometown of Los Angeles at the death his distant father, a noted 1970s and '80s record producer who knew how to score hits but never bothered with figuring out how to raise a child. With his understanding girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) in tow, Sam reluctantly trudges back home to his estranged, grieving mother Lillian (the excellent Michelle Pfeiffer).
Still bitter toward his dad, Sam gets a shock when he takes a private meeting with his father's attorney (Philip Baker Hall), who hands over a worn leather bag stuffed with $150,000 and a note instructing Sam to deliver it to a local apartment, the home of strong-willed single mom Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her clever, rebellious son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario).
They are strangers to him, but with a bit of stalkerish investigating, Sam soon realizes, to his astonishment, that Frankie is the half-sister he never knew he had.
With his shady job in jeopardy and deep debts piled up, Sam is averse to turning over the cash, even when he realizes the financial tightrope Frankie, a reformed party girl, is walking with her dead-end job as a bartender.
Still, Sam feels compelled to get to know Frankie, so he conceals his true identity and poses as a new member of her Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. They swiftly develop a close bond — he assures her that he will never, ever hit on her, and fortunately, their budding relationship avoids veering into creepy territory — while Sam quickly becomes a fatherlike figure to Josh.
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‘People Like Us'
Starring: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Hall D'Addario, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde. (Language, some drug use and brief sexuality)