After returning home following a tough day at work, Sam discovers that his father has passed away. Though reluctant to get to LA to be with his mother, he makes it to her house but misses the funeral. Hoping to keep the visit short, Sam claims that Hannah has a prior engagement for which they need to return home. Before he is able to do so, he meets with the attorney, Ike Rafferty, who gives him a bag with his father’s belongings and a note asking him to visit an address. Sam finds Frankie and her son Josh but does not yet grasp why they were so important to his father. Upon further investigation, he discovers that Frankie is his long lost half-sister. Determined to learn more about her, he eventually makes a connection but hides the secret of their relationship as family. Meanwhile, the pressure is on with a mother who is frustrated with him, a girlfriend who does not understand him and a potentially huge lawsuit threatening his livelihood.
Starring: Chris Pine (Sam), Elizabeth Banks (Frankie), Michael Hall D’Addario (Josh), Michelle Pfeiffer (Lillian), Olivia Wilde (Hannah), Mark Duplass (Ted), Philip Baker Hall (Ike Rafferty), Sara Mornell (Dr. Amanda), Barbara Eve Harris (Mrs. Haney), Jon Favreau (Richards)
The cast for this film has a rawness to their performance that makes it easy with which to identify. Chris Pine highlights some of the challenges that happen when a child feels that their relationship with one or both of their parents was unfulfilling. Due to the number of secrets in the family, he never learned how to fully trust anyone and does a great job with exhibiting the inner conflict with both being honest about his feelings and doing the right thing. Elizabeth Banks does a phenomenal job with showing both strength and weakness through her presentation of her character’s similar feelings of abandonment and lack of trust.
Alex Kurtzman’s film may be a little predictable, but it has a charm that is extremely engaging. When Sam first arrives in LA, he finds himself struggling with the pain of his mother’s disappointment, the sense of confusion from his girlfriend and eventually the stress of his long lost sister. When he is given the money, he is also given a big choice: keep the money and not tell his sister or tell the truth and surprise Frankie without knowing how she would react. As he continues to get to know her, the decision continues to get more difficult. The problem transforms into a desire to try and help her out but not disrupt the life she has with the pain of having her revisit their father’s failure to support them both. Meanwhile (though secondary to the rest of the story), Sam’s avoidance of his work responsibilities continues to pile up the problems and there is not a conclusion that occurs during this film’s snapshot of the story.
While the story may not have a number of surprises, the emotional connections are strong. Sam’s struggles with his father are clear, but his connections are just as interesting. While he seems to not care of his father’s possessions, he seems extremely attracted to the music and had not problem with using his pot or listening to his records. He also clearly remembered and respected his father’s six rules for life, sharing them with his nephew in an attempt to strengthen their connection. During the moment Frankie learns the truth about Sam and their father, her reaction’s rawness and her continued frustration and conflict makes it feel real. The ending is significantly touching and may restore a bit of hope in the viewer seeing mostly secrets and pain throughout the story.
While the overall projections of this film are mixed, it is actually a well-crafted movie that presents a story that is rather different from most of the films currently out in theaters.
Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5