" The performances and the chemistry between the characters are believable enough to engage us and encourage us to root for them to discover that we don't have to be defined by the demons that for so long have confined us. "
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Tagline: Find your family.
Release Date: June 29, 2012
In a story inspired by true events, Sam (Chris Pine), a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman, is tasked with fulfilling his estranged father’s last wishes - delivering an inheritance to a sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had. As their relationship develops, both siblings are forced to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.MY TAKE
Family secrets. Some are minor indiscretions that are more embarrassing than they are damaging. Others are true skeletons in the closet whose revelations could threaten an entire heritage. If my parents have any bombshells waiting to explode then I’m oblivious. I certainly don’t anticipate ever receiving news that I have a long-lost sibling that I have to deliver inheritance money to. Nor do I have any idea how I would handle such a situation.
So I was quite content to live the experience vicariously through People Like Us. Buoyed by strong performances by Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer, People Like Us complements those performances with an engaging, and oftentimes heartfelt, story and delivers an enjoyable alternative to the big budget Summer blockbusters.
Pine and Banks particularly do excellent jobs at creating flawed characters who, despite their life mistakes, show the promise of redemption. Every one of us comes with our own baggage, but life should be about more than the sum of our past mistakes. If we learn from them then every regret can simply be a brick that leads to a better tomorrow. If we don’t then we’ll forever be held back by the roots of bitterness. The characters of Sam and Frankie show a desire for something more. Banks does a wonderful job of expressing her hope through the culmination of past events that we hear about but don’t see, while Pine transforms Sam’s perspective through the course of the film’s runtime. It’s two different but equally effective approaches to character development.
I don’t know the extent of how accurately this film interprets the true events that it’s inspired by, but it does risk the accusation of being emotionally manipulative at times, particularly the end. Is the conclusion too convenient? Is the story arc just a little too perfectly round? Or is the audience simply rewarded with just enough sentimentality as a thank you for handling the film’s sad and bleak moments? It depends on how the viewer filters his or her perspective. Some might shake their heads while others will be wiping their eyes.
My biggest complaint is that while this is a film about the importance of family, it’s not a family film. I understand that the theme is definitely too heavy for kids, and that’s fine, but one thing that always irks me is children with potty mouths, whether it be in film or real life. Newcomer Michael Hall D’Addario does a good job as Banks’ rebellious son, but this kid is what, 12 years old? He could use a bottle of liquid soap poured in his mouth.
I prefer watching children in movies who lighten the mood and ease tension. D’Addario made me uneasy every time he opened his mouth because I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. I blame the writers for not finding a better way for D’Addario to express his anger than resorting to the shock value of a 12-year-old dropping an f-bomb.
I also wanted Sam to reveal the truth to Frankie a little sooner because, let’s be honest, watching a sister develop romantic feelings for her brother is just gross. I don’t care if it’s unknowing to the character. The audience knows exactly what’s going on, and we don’t like it. Well, unless you’re from Arkansas (sorry, TaMara).
Other than that, this is a film that avoids the typical romantic comedy formula and presents a fresh dramatic take on the development of familial relationships. And while the characters in People Like Us might not be people like you and me, the performances and the chemistry are believable enough to engage us and encourage us to root for them to discover that we don’t have to be defined by the demons that for so long have confined us.
Rated PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality, People Like Us contains too much profanity to meet mama's approval. The s-bomb is dropped more than 20 times. What's worse is the child with a potty mouth who goes so far as to drop the f-bomb. Not surprisingly, the Lord's name is also used in vain, although I don't recall hearing G-d**n. There are other heavy, adult elements that make this in no way suitable for children.