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Stars: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Michael Hall D'Addario, Jon Favreau, Phillp Baker Hall

Director: Alex Kurtzman

I know it’s wrong but I can’t help it.

Every time I see the super-sugary Dreamworks logo featuring a little boy fishing off a crescent moon (for me the worst logo Hollywood has yet dreamed up) I automatically always find the film that follows, whatever it is, to be a real improvement.

That said, co-writer and debut feature film director Alex Kurtzman’s first-rate comedy drama would have impressed me, whatever logo had preceded it.

Kurtzman, working with his long-time co-writer Roberto Orci (and Jody Lambert) has based his film – like so many recent movies - on ‘a true story’, in this case his own. Result? A potently wrought and excellently acted screen story whose emotions ring true whether or not they arise from real events or dramatic invention. Better still, it’s a fine movie for grown-ups, which tells its story without pandering to multiplex simplicities.

Fast-talking salesman Pine’s career goes sour at the same time as he learns of the death of his record-producer father and, reluctantly, returns home for the funeral and to put his father’s estate in order. Rocked by the discovery that his father had an illegitimate daughter he knew nothing about, Pine is subjected to further emotional pressure when he has to go and meet his 30-year-old sister Banks and give her the $150,000 his father has left her. Pine joins her AA group in order to meet her and, as their relationship progresses, is torn between fulfilling his father’s wishes or keeping the money for himself instead. And the emotional pressure he already faces mounts alarmingly when the unknowing Banks starts to fall in love with him…

It says much for Kurtzman as writer and director that his film never becomes maudlin or overwrought. Strong characterisation, credible situations and fine performances ensure avoidance of Hollywood-style melodrama. Pine and Banks are first rate and Michael Hall D'Addario convinces as Banks’ preternaturally smart young son with whom Pine bonds. Pfeiffer gives a potent performance as Pine’s understandably distraught mother and Wilde is particularly good, giving depth and credibility to her role as Pine’s uncomplaining girlfriend, who has largely to wait outside the parameters of the main drama.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Colour.
114 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 09 Nov 2012