People Like Us is a very compelling story of two strangers drawn together by a mutual secret. While both of these strangers are on the brink of an emotional meltdown it seems finding one another might be the key to finding themselves. The film takes us through an emotional journey of loss, deep-rooted pain and then a powerful sense of redemption. People Like Us is a dramedy which leans a little more toward drama than comedy. It’s hard not feel a deep emotional connection to the characters in this film.
Sam (Chris Pine – Star Trek, Unstoppable) is a salesman on the proverbial ropes who begrudgingly returns to Los Angeles when his estranged father dies. His father’s last request is that Sam deliver $150,000 in cash to a half-sister he never knew about. Frankie (Elizabeth Banks – What to Expect When You’re Expecting) is the half-sister, a recovering alcoholic and single mother. Her life seems to have gone into a tailspin since her father abandoned her family, for another family, when she was a little girl. Having financial trouble of his own and only being left his father’s record collection, Sam initially wants to take the money and run. He is a man on the verge of succumbing to bitterness and turning into the selfish jerk he’s always despised. His actions aren’t always noble, but you keep finding yourself hoping he does the right thing.
Chris Pine continues to expand his Hollywood market share with a diverse range of action, comedy and drama roles. Minus This Means War, he continues to build an impressive resume of films. People Like Us is no exception as Chris draws you into his well-scripted character arc. Chris was able to take the emotional depth of his character and deliver in spades with this complex, emotional spider web of life altering events. Elizabeth Banks is equally impressive in her ironic role as a recovering alcoholic bartender. She continues to deliver in role after role. While What to Expect When You’re Expecting didn’t achieve box office success, Elizabeth delivered a commanding performance. Like Chris, Elizabeth is building a diverse portfolio of films and memorable characters. Whether she is making you laugh with outrageous physical comedy or nailing a heartfelt emotional role, she delivers time and time again.
Michael Hall D’Addario does an excellent job as Frankie’s son Josh. He starts out as a stereotypical brat, but D’Addario draws us into his attention seeking, wounded, adolescent behavior. The results of his performance make him a believable character in the film. Michelle Pfeiffer delivers in her role as Sam’s mother Lillian. Her character is a once-aspiring ’70s singer/songwriter and now neglected wife who is bitter and jaded. Pfeiffer does an outstanding job of pulling us into her pain and making us feel for her character. In this film you see Sam, Frankie, Josh and Lillian all go through complex emotional character arcs. You stare into their tortured souls and long for them to make peace with one another and move on with their lives.
Co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci made names for themselves writing popular action flicks like Star Trek and the Transformers films. Their first foray into drama feels a bit heavy handed and drawn out at times. It almost feels like Kurtzman and Orci are trying too hard to prove themselves with their first stab at a more serious film. The camera work and editing feel more like an action movie than a drama, but it doesn’t necessarily take away from the characters themselves. One thing to take into consideration is Alex Kurtzman made his directorial debut with this film. All things considered, Kurtzman and Orci did a fine job.
With that being said, the film tends to drag on longer than it should. At first Sam plans to keep the money and he doesn’t tell Frankie that they are related. Once he starts spending time with her he is afraid to tell her the truth because he is afraid to hurt her and be rejected himself. This tends to become frustrating and makes this two hour movie sag a bit in the middle. Had they decided to trim some scenes here and there, it would have been a little more fluid. At a certain point in the film, Sam’s secrecy no longer makes any sense and just becomes an exercise in futility. However, when you look beyond the small idiosyncrasies you find a truly heartwarming film.
People Like Us delivers an emotionally charged story of family dynamics in the aftermath of one man’s life. The film draws us in with an unexpected meeting of fractured people and takes us on their journey towards acceptance, understanding and healing. This screenplay was really driven home by the performances of Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michele Pfeiffer. The film stumbles a bit from time to time, but delivers a powerful ending that will make even grown men cry. Even if you cannot relate to the film’s emotional baggage, it’s hard to deny the impact of the final moments of the film.
If you’ve seen the movie already, please share your thoughts below. If you haven’t seen the movie, go see it…then come back and talk about it.