People Like Us
Today on One Movie Each Day, Chris Pine makes his return, and this time he’s decided to leave that ridiculous wig behind. Also, Olivia Wilde once again proves that she has some real acting talent, (unlike whoever it was that I had previously confused her for.) Also, Elizabeth Banks makes her OM|ED debut, (after narrowly missing out last week when I decided to review The Mothman Prophecies instead of Slither.) What I mean to say by all that is; today’s movie is People Like Us, the directorial debut of recently-prolific screenwriter Alex Kurtzman.
The film stars Pine as Sam Harper, a hotshot New York B2B salesman who’s biggest deal falls apart disastrously on the same day that he learns that his nearly-estranged father, Jerry (Dean Chekvala), a moderately-successful record producer, has passed away. Despite his lack of desire to do so, Sam and his live-in girlfriend Hannah (Wilde), fly out to LA. They miss the funeral, greatly disappointing Sam’s mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer), but the next day Jerry’s best friend and attorney gives Sam a battered shaving kit that had belonged to Jerry. Inside is $150,00 in cash and a note from Jerry saying that Sam is to give the money to someone named Josh Harris.
Sam tracks down Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario) and to learn that he is only eleven years old. Sam initially suspects that Josh’s mother Frankie (Banks), might be Jerry’s mistress, but he quickly discovers that she is, in fact, Jerry’s daughter. This creates quite a dilemma for Sam who, up until now, had thought himself an only child. On one hand he could use the money to solve all of his looming financial problems. On the other hand, he finds himself with an opportunity to get to know Frankie and Josh, and become a part of this new family he didn’t know he had. If he’s going to do this, he has to figure out how to tell Frankie who he is, and what to tell Lillian about Frankie and the money. So, from there we have a plot.
This movie’s strength are its characters and the powerful performances from the three adult leads. Despite the oddly convoluted circumstances these characters come across as incredibly real people. Their struggles and flaws seem more like the flaws that real people have, rather than the exaggerated flaws of movie characters. These characters are what makes the film worth watching. As for the story itself, once established is pretty typical Hollywood fare.
There are no real unexpected developments and there might as well be formal act breaks as the film goes through its well-trod paces. Also, there’s one fairly significant plotline that gets left dangling. (This concerns the fallout from Sam’s bad business deal, and I think that this was intentionally not resolved to illustrate the his characters’ changing priorities. Unfortunately the stakes on this particular plotline had been raised high enough that I felt it needed at least some sort of closure.) In spite of these flaws the story is… nice, and there’s a neatly-setup half-twist at the very end that nudges up to heartwarming.
Overall, I found this movie to be very enjoyable, Pine and Banks take their characters through believable arcs that have the added benefit of being watchable. Meanwhile Pfeiffer and Wilde take supporting characters that could easily exist only for the purpose of exposition and really make the most of them. Kurtzman, known primarily for writing TV shows and movies about robots, aliens and explosions, charts some new territory here as the co-writer/director about family and learning to be a better person. I think that he succeeds tremendously in doing so. While far from a perfect movie, I think that the characters and the ending of People Like Us will stick with me for a while. It’s well worth seeing.
[People Like Us (2012) – Directed by Alex Kurtzman – Rated PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality]