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Movie Review: People Like Us

People Like Us, with its welcoming title, gorgeous and likeable stars, and strong use of music is a movie that aims simply to elate by being only slightly challenging. It achieves for the most part, yes, provided you forget a few eye-rolling moments in this twist on a family drama.

Chris Pine plays Sam, a fast-talking businessman whose distance from his family is fine until his dad dies suddenly and he is forced to confront his past. Michelle Pfeiffer is the mother he rarely visits, and Elizabeth Banks is Frankie, the sister he never knew he had. While Sam is trying to have civil interactions with his family and deal with those issues, he suddenly faces mounting debt and court fees back home as work troubles loom.

Annoyed at a dead father who ignored him, and a mother who is still ignored, Sam learns that his dad, a wealthy and famous record producer, left a sizable stash of cash for Josh, the son of Frankie, Sam’s nephew. And so he is confronted with a problem that likely doesn’t face people like us: whether or not to introduced yourself to a sibling you never knew you had, and whether or not to pass along the money that will help solve a lot of problems.

Pine and Banks are superb on screen, charming as usual, and doing their best to deliver a slew of cliché lines and cheesy jokes. Still it is strange, and it is easy to question the actions of Sam who really seems to have no idea what he is doing. At times it would seem that writer and director Alex Kurtzman isn’t so sure either, oscillating wildly between incoherent elements of drama, comedy and romance.

Sam and Frankie meet, but Sam doesn’t divulge his newfound knowledge right away, as he waits and wonders how, and if, to tell his sister the news. He grows attached to her and her son, dining, shopping, and driving out to the beach together, letting the beauty of the moment supersede the responsibility of the future.

The simply stunning Olivia Wilde (everyone in the movie is gorgeous) and the ever-present Mark Duplass are strong as well, and even though Duplass is around for mere minutes, his charisma is long-lasting. Michael Hall D’Addario is the precocious youth Josh, who, like so many sons of on-screen working moms, is rambunctious and talks with a vocabulary behind his years. Atypically, thankfully, Josh is not one dimensional, fighting with his mom as much as he apologized, being as serious as he is silly, and willing to learn despite his stubbornness.

The film precariously walks a tightrope between being insufferably cute and melodramatic, with many a shot that are almost too clever, and a most predictably story, that while based on a true tale, is completely infused with the hand of Hollywood.

The performances save the day, and Pine and Banks earn their screen time, especially the former who portrays a man trying to do the right thing, with the past and the present. His indecisiveness and missteps are easily documented, but Sam is a likeable character thanks to Pine, for he is plagued by problems that plague everyone. And even though he along with everyone else is ridiculously good looking, I suppose we’re not all so different.

Anthony Marcusa

A pop-culture consumer, Anthony seeks out what is important in entertainment and mocks what is not. Inspired by history, Anthony writes with the hope that someone, somewhere, might be affected.