People Like Us (2012)


When you have Olivia Wilde in your life, trust me, no re-thinking has to happen.

The film stars Chris Pine as Sam, a struggling salesman whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. In the course of fulfilling his father’s last wishes, he inherits $150,000 which he must deliver to the sister he never knew he had (Elizabeth Banks). As their relationship develops, Sam is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about this family–and re-examine his own life choices in the process.

To be honest, who wants to see a family drama in the dead-beat middle of the Summer. People love the action, the explosions, the robots, and the CGI, but do people really want to venture out and see what could have been one extended conversation on an episode of Oprah? Well, if it’s this good, then yeah.

This is the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, writer of films like Transformers and Star Trek, and it’s a very different kind of film for him, obviously, but he makes the best of it with heartfelt writing. This is a story we have all seen done 1,000 times before (angsty adult returns to an unwelcome home) but there’s just something refreshing about this writing that makes it feel new and original in it’s own way. We spend a lot of time with these characters, figuring out why they are the way they are, and what really gets underneath their skin. This attention to character, makes us feel more attached to them so when the more soapy, melodramatic moments start coming around, we don’t feel like we’ve been cheated one bit. In fact, it comes off as an honest look at how families are with one another, especially when times goes on.

The film also balances out it’s light-hearted message very well, where it doesn’t seem like its too preachy or obvious. Of course a lot of the moments in this film are calculated and you could probably tell how the story was going to end and why right from the first shot, but you can’t help but enjoy seeing a film that obviously has its heart in the right place. And let’s be honest, plenty of flicks have their hearts in the right places, but it’s how they pull it off and make it all work out is what really matters and here, it makes the final product so much better. It’s also another rare feat when you see a film that’s so directed towards adult filmgoers, that you can hardly even believe it features such big stars and is getting a big release date, such as this one right here. Yeah, I went to go see it in theaters but that’s just because I needed some time away from all of the hustle and bustle of the Summer blockbusters.

However, as emotionally true and rich this film could be with its writing, something was just missing by the end. I don’t know what it was, but it was like some secret ingredient was supposed to be there for me to get me to feel like I’m about to ball my eyes out, but that ingredient never showed up. Instead, the last 30 minutes where everything starts to get really dramatic and emotional, I just sort of sat there and felt bad for these characters but never really felt the pain along with them. That sounds a little weird that I would be complaining about not feeling their pain, but when you have a flick like this, you should feel so close to these characters, that you feel everything that they do no matter what the feeling may be. As you can tell, I just came back from a yoga class.

I think the main reason why this film didn’t effect me as much was because of some of the subplots that seemed to just work their ways into the main story. One in particular, was Michelle Pfeiffer’s death-scare that comes out of nowhere and feels totally manipulate, maybe even the most manipulative thing in this whole movie. Come to think of it, her character just really bothered me as I could never fully get invested her by how standoffish and mean she was with her son. I get it, the kid doesn’t come around very often but love and enjoy him now, because you never know when that mothaeffa is going to get tired of your shit and never come back. At least that’s how I think, don’t tell my mommy. Another subplot that we didn’t really need was the one with Pine’s girlfriend, played by the always stunning Olivia Wilde. Wilde does what she can with this role, but it’s just another character/plot we didn’t really and only softened the emotional blow the film tries to take at the end.

No matter how damn unlikable this character can get, Sam is still a very watchable and likable person, mainly because of the charm that is within Chris Pine. Pine has this uncanny ability to make this sometimes very selfish character, seem like a type of dude that you can care for and worry about, even if he does make some dumb-ass decisions. I don’t know what it was about him here, but he made me want to watch him more and I think he was a perfect fit for this role and I look forward to him doing more dramatic roles such as this, and staying away from garbage like This Means War. Still can’t believe he said “yes” to that movie.

Over the years, Elizabeth Banks has been trying her damn near hardest going all-out on these dramatic roles just to get her name out there and I think she pulls it off perfectly here with her character, Frankie. There’s always this under-lining sense of sadness that you can tell is within her, but Banks never fully shows that until one memorable scene where she just lets it all out and shows exactly why she has been hurting for so long and why exactly her life sucks so much. But you never just like her because you pity her, you actually feel like she’s a good person and just wants to be happy with her life in anyway that she can. Banks can definitely be taken seriously as a dramatic actress, and if she gets the right role down the road, could even be considered for an Oscar. Then again, you never, ever know.

Consensus: The ending may not be as emotionally satisfying as I would have liked to hope, but People Like Us features some strong writing that balances out all of its characters perfectly, string performances from the cast that make these characters worth watching, and a rare sense that this film is made for the intentions of making people happy and showing how lives, no matter how bad or miserable they may be, can always be lifted up by some familia. Perfect little message for the kiddies and adults.

7/10=Rental!!

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10 comments

  1. Good review, Dan! I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I thought the characters were written well and had some good performances. My main issue was that it could have been edited down a bit with the some of the subplots that didn’t really add anything to the main story, but otherwise, I thought it was a nice change of pace from all the summer action films out now.

    • Thanks Erik! I agree with you on the story. A lot of it could have been cut out but in the end, I still thoroughly enjoyed myself with a flick that’s all about the story.

  2. While you still mention some things that didn’t work for you in this movie, this is still the most positive review I have read so far. I’m still not 100% convinced to go see it, but it may reach my netflix queue one day.

    Nice review, man. Thanks.

  3. I hadn’t heard of this movie, and it sounds like the kind of thing I’d really like. Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful review. It sounds like a worthwhile though uneven film.

  4. I could say I pine for Chris Pine but I won’t. The 12 year old is another of the summer’s big finds just as the kids in Moonrise Kingdom are. This story works because the acting works. Agreed the mother’s cancer scare is heavy handed and out of the blue though. It’s like the had to hammer home the don’t forget me before I’m gone theme.

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