CliqueClack Flicks

People Like Us shows us how not to meet your sister

People Like Us - Theater Review
Release Date: 6/29/2012 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

'People Like Us' follows the story of Sam and Frankie, discovering their family bonds after the death of a father neither of them loved.

People Like Us is quite a departure for the team of Alex Kurtzman – who directed and co-wrote the film – and his writing partner Robert Orci. The team is much better known for their work on projects like Fringe, the Star Trek reboot, the Transformers series and Alias. Instead of tackling a fast-paced science fiction yarn, the duo has produced an irregular story about family. People Like Us is an engrossing, challenging drama that tells the story of a relationship between two people where only one understands what that relationship truly is.

Chris Pine is Sam, a fast-talking salesman type who tries desperately to avoid the trip home – with girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) — to his father Jerry’s funeral. Once there, he discovers that his father left him his vast record collection … and instructions to deliver $150,000 to a woman and child he’s never met. Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) is a sister his father never told him about, and Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario) is his nephew. The realization causes Sam to reexamine who he is and his relationship with both Hanna and his mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer), while struggling with telling Frankie who he is and giving her the money.

The movie rests on the shoulders of the chemistry between Banks and Pine, which is a difficult proposition considering the audience knows what their relationship really is while Frankie does not. We watch she and Sam go from a series of poorly veiled “run-ins” to something more in relatively short order. The story is told from Sam’s perspective, so we see him wrestle with the situation, which he never really handles well, oblivious to the fact that Frankie is slowly letting him in for all of the wrong reasons.

It’s not hard to understand Frankie’s perspective. If the movie was filmed from her point of view, seeing only her side of the growing relationship with Sam, her actions make complete sense. She’s a single mother trying to raise a misunderstood kid, and along comes a guy that seems pretty nice – and looks like Chris Pine. But when she finally opens up to him, the truth comes out. But here’s the thing: Sam is not a bad guy; he just isn’t a very good guy, and he is in an impossible situation – he has some very serious trouble at work that $150k would go a long way in helping to resolve. As both he and Frankie learned from their father the hard way, family is always complicated.

I found People Like Us to be quite enjoyable, in that “watching a train wreck” kind of way – the train wreck is Sam’s decision making, not the movie as a whole. As I mentioned, the chemistry between the two leads was difficult to pull off, but the actors managed to play the idea of love developing between these two people in different ways – without freaking the audience out. Pfeiffer shines in a secondary role: pissed at her son, at her husband and eventually herself. I also enjoyed the film’s soundtrack; as Jerry was a music industry A&R exec, music played a big role in all of the character’s life. Most importantly, I love how People Like Us brought its story together in the end by allowing Frankie and Sam to question if Jerry was as horrible as they had given him credit for.


Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal/DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC

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