'People Like Us' overwrought but palatable

Elizabeth Banks in People Like Us (SUPPLIED)

Elizabeth Banks in People Like Us (SUPPLIED)

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:28 AM ET

In People Like Us, a man discovers that he has family he didn't know existed. It alters the way he sees himself and everything in his life.

Sam (Chris Pine) is an odd guy, and not in a good way. He's a manipulative hustler at work, preoccupied at home and emotionally closed off from everyone closest to him.

When his father dies, he does his best to skip the funeral, only getting home to the West Coast at all because his girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) steps in and handles travel arrangements.

There's nothing at home for Sam. His mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is angry with him and withdrawn for reasons of her own.

After the funeral, Sam discovers that his estranged father, a record producer and manager, has left him nothing but his collection of albums. Oh yes -- there's also a satchel containing $150,000 in cash, but that's money Sam's dad has left to his phantom family. Sam discovers that he has a half-sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) he knew nothing about. And Frankie has an 11-year-old son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario).

Instant family.

Sam's father has left instructions for Sam to deliver the money to his newfound sister and nephew. He'd really rather keep the money for himself, but out of curiosity, he starts finding ways to insinuate himself into Frankie's life.

In time, he develops a relationship with her and with her son, but he cannot bring himself to tell Frankie that she and he are siblings. He will eventually have to face that disclosure; he also has to find out how much his mother knew about his father's second family.

People Like Us is a hugely complicated story about family, identity and redemption; any one of those would have been more than enough for a single movie.

Nonetheless, Sam's journey of connection with the sister he didn't know he had, and his eventual capacity for forgiveness are developments that will hold your attention through any number of complications. The cast, which includes cameos from Mark Duplass and Philip Baker Hall, is strong; Banks and Pine do well with this material and child actor Michael Hall D'Addario is a wonderful surprise.

People Like Us may be overwrought, but the performances make it worthwhile.

Three and a half stars (out of five)

This film is rated 14A


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