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People Like Us

2012 | 114 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

People Like Us


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Movie appeal

Coming of age39%



Theatrical release date

 29 June, 2012
 09 November, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from People Like Us Blu-ray

People Like Us Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 28, 2012

“People Like Us” is the type of film that would be completely derailed by a simple act of honesty. The drama presented here could be wiped away in minutes if the lead character showed a little backbone and dumped his feelings at first contact, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, the screenplay is an exercise in prolonging the inevitable, making the viewer experience the discomfort of a man perfectly capable of solving his problems, but can’t quite make the leap in communication. The trick of “People Like Us” is making the audience not mind the unnatural delay, supplying characters dimensional enough to ignore their odd lack of common sense. The picture has that power.

Sam (Chris Pine) is a fast-talking salesman specializing in overstocked items who’s just learned that his estranged father, a famous music industry figure, has died. Reluctant to return home for the funeral, Sam and girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) eventually make the journey to console his mother, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer), with the wheeler-dealer learning of serious legal troubles when he returns home. Left an enormous amount of cash by his late father to bring to the half-sister he never knew, Sam is floored by the revelation, setting out to meet Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her troubled son, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). Unable to explain his mission to the hardened single mom, Sam inadvertently stumbles into Frankie’s life under false pretenses, cozying up to a woman who hasn’t been vulnerable in a long time. Digging himself in deeper with both Frankie and Lillian the longer he keeps the truth from surfacing, Sam struggles to understand a father he despised, accidentally growing into a parental figure for Josh.

“People Like Us” marks the directorial debut for Alex Kurtzman, a prolific screenwriter who’s worked on films such as “Star Trek,” “Cowboys & Aliens,” and “The Island.” The man is well versed in the art of arranging screen chaos, leaving the tone of his latest work quite unexpected. As the title suggests, “People Like Us” is a human story about inner turmoil and the intensity of trust, leading with troubled characters who don’t always have the capacity to share their true feelings, with Kurtzman pulling drama out of the anxiety shared by this sudden family unknowingly inching together. It’s a modest idea, “inspired by true events,” with the production working diligently to breathe life into what should be an unresponsive lump of clichés, infusing the personalities with a genuine sense of individuality before they finally come together, strengthening the burgeoning relationships with cleanly defined neuroses and faults.

It’s actually quite a relief to find time with Sam and Frankie so appealing, brought to life through two expressive performances from Pine and Banks, who share terrific chemistry -- a development Kurtzman uses to rile up the audience when Frankie begins to take Sam’s intense interest as a romantic sign. Opening up to each other, the emotional textures of the characters shine through, making for a few wonderful scenes of confession. As previously mentioned, all of Sam’s woes would be cleared away by a simple, harmless explanation of intent, but clarity of thought doesn’t make sticky drama, with much of “People Like Us” devoted to the fallen salesman’s psychological torment, handed a ticking clock with legal woes that worsen the longer he hides at his childhood home. Also tender is the time spent between Sam and Lillian. While Kurtzman doesn’t set aside enough screentime to explore the tattered relationship in full, Pfeiffer is handed a few effective scenes of confrontation, pulling complexity out of Pine, who’s normally drawn to roles that are more cocksure.

The material stumbles in the third act, suddenly calling on television melodrama formula to clear a path to a satisfying ending. D’Addario also causes concern, playing Josh as more of a Disney Channel punk than a credibly broken child who can’t abstain from waywardness. The character’s deadpan precociousness is difficult to endure. Thankfully, Kurtzman finds his footing again for the finale, a tasteful conclusion that effectively finds a way out of the story, wrapping up a gentle feature on a lovely note of concern from a startling source. “People Like Us” ends up filled with modest moments of surprise and connection, launching Kurtzman’s directorial career on a refreshingly compassionate note.

Starring: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Philip Baker Hall
Director: Alex Kurtzman

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People Like Us 0 Jun 12, 2012

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