Rating: 3 out of stars
Run Time: 1 hour 55 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Hall D'Addario, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Philip Baker Hall, Jon Favreau, Dean Chekvala
Directed by Alex Kurtzman (feature film debut)
Opens locally Friday, June 29th, 2012
There is a lot to like in People Like Us, but then again there is a lot not to like. Elizabeth Banks gives a great performance playing (I would guess) a very relatable, struggling single mom, even though she is also trapped within a tired "working girl" cliche. Chris Pine is serviceable in the central role, but People Like Us suffers from taking itself way too seriously, not to mention an implausible script.
Chris Pine plays Sam, a slick salesman who screws up at his job right before getting word that his estranged father has just died. When he goes out to California with his girlfriend (the beautiful Olivia Wilde) in tow, we see that he has a complicated past with his deceased father as well as his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer).
When he is brought in for his inheritance, he is also given a shaving bag and is told his father wanted him to have it. Upon opening it, he finds a large sum of cash and a cryptic note: To give the money to a specific person living at a specific address, and to make sure that he takes care of them.
Sam weighs his options: Should he keep the money for himself, or should he deliver it to this mysterious address?
That's where Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario) come into play. They have a connection to Sam's father obviously, but what?
It is not a spoiler to say that Frankie turns out to be Sam's sister from another mother (anything revealed in the trailer ceases to qualify as "spoiler" material to me). Where the film goes next is illogical and forced.
Unlike another film that opened this past weekend, Your Sister's Sister, People Like Us chops along and relies on plot contrivances and over-the-top melodrama to get by. In Your Sister's Sister, all of the decisions made by each character seemed genuine...here they don't make any sense at all.
Sam chooses not to tell Frankie about their mutual father, so only he and the audience knows. This makes for an uncomfortable, borderline incestual relationship that develops between the two. What are Sam's motives? He seems to care for her like a sister, she seems to be falling for him for real. The whole Luke/Leia vibe really distracted me through the middle of the film.
Sam's not the only character to make poor, ridiculous decisions that defy the character's own intelligence. Watch the film and see if you agree.
But despite the overabundance of sappiness, People Like Us somehow kept me strung along in the strength of the performances. By the time the end comes along, I admittedly had a few tears in my eyes. There is a slight twist ending that instantly injected the film a bit of real emotion - emotion that was lacking throughout the other 110 minutes - but it wasn't enough to save the film in its entirety.
Still, the destination is not as important as the journey, and the trek through People Like Us felt like forever.
QUICK NOTE: Scene only in a brief flashback and in pictures, the deceased father is portrayed by none other than Dean Chekvala. Who you may ask? Dean grew up in Clinton Township, MI and has gone on to a very successful acting career as a character actor on shows like True Blood, NCIS, Without a Trace, ER, Harper's Island and Lie to Me. Dean was also one of my first and best friends growing up...good to see him in a film with wide-release, and here's to seeing more of him in the future!
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