Reel Reviews | People Like Us

by Tim Gordon

A father’s death opens up a Pandora’s Box of family secrets for one man bringing him face-to-face with a sister that he never knew existed in, People Like Us.

Corporate barder Sam (Chris Pine) is riding the wave, successful at work, in love with his girlfriend, Hanna (Olivia Wilde) and on the verge of closing a huge deal. But the news of his record producer father’s death brings back all of his childhood insecurities. His return home is just the beginning of a journey that will change his life.

After a confrontation with his estranged mom, Lillian (Michelle Pffeifer), Sam receives his father’s final instructions to find a sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) that he never knew existed and give her and troubled son, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario) $150,000. Now deep in debt himself, Sam must decide if he should do the right thing or stick it to his old man one last time.

In the process of shadowing Frankie and Josh, he slowly begins to understand that while his father wasn’t perfect; his behavior forced him to make some hard decisions that affected his entire family, all in very different but painful ways. Feeling abandoned and unloved, recovering alcoholic Frankie sports a hard exterior masking her emotional insecurity searching for love in all of the wrong places with the wrong people. She mistakenly believes the interest that Sam shows her and Josh could evolve into something special before his admission violates her trust turning her world upside down.

Sam also comes to grips with a father that he never understood and the role Lillian played in the decisions that he made for her family. The admission begins the healing between the two and if not a happily-ever-after ending, something relatively close.

Alex Kurtzman’s directorial debut is anchored by a group of really good redemption performances from Pine, Banks and Pffeifer who stunk up the joint in three earlier films this year, This Means War, What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Dark Shadows. Kurtzman’s script, co-written with Jody Lambert and Roberto Orci, has some uncomfortable “incest overtones, but is a wonderful showcase for Banks who really shines delivering some poignant, emotional moments. As the misunderstood but smart kid, D’Addario gives one of the film’s best performances and appears to have a bright future.

While the film has moments of emotional manipulation, Kurtzman’s heart is in the right place showing that while family may not be perfect, deep down inside it’s just made up of a group of people like us!

Grade: B-