It seems more often than not a surreal story line — in this case easy on the eyes twenty-something (Chris Pine) discovers as an adult that he has a sister, also not bad looking, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) — is not quite as unreal as first thought. And perhaps that is why a story like the one depicted in director Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us resonates with an audience. After all, this story-line was taken from Kurtzman’s own life. A labor of love, the script in development for nearly a decade, is perhaps the directors most personal script. At least one would assume more personal than Transformers and Star Trek.
In typical Dreamworks fashion People Like Us feels a bit emotionally manipulative, but so did The Help. The two reactions that I saw leaving the screening I attended were either “that was a bit over the top,” or “wow what a story.” My reaction was the later with a few tears thrown in. And I think if you, as an audience member, allow yourself to succumb to the, at times, blatant manipulation what you will find is a well acted story of a family that is more real than it first it appears. Lines like “lean into it” come off a bit less corny.
The film is full of good acting, not something we see a lot of these days. Instead of relying on Pine’s good looks the film allows Pine, as Sam, to show a depth in his acting abilities that up until now his roles have not afforded him. Playing Pine’s mother, Lillian, Michelle Pfeiffer is allowed to play an older character. Still gorgeous, but believable as Pine’s mother. There is a vulnerability in Pfeiffer’s performance that is refreshing. And Banks shows yet again her versatility as an actress. This year we have seen her go from police officer (Man on a Ledge) to eccentric hostess/house-mom (The Hunger Games) to struggling single mom, Frankie. Not to be overlooked is newcomer Michael Hall D’Addario. Who plays Josh, Frankie’s son. His performance is refreshingly lacking in performance, he acts like a kid.
It is an interesting time of year to release this film. People Like Us feels much more of a mid-September release than a middle of the summer release. It is lacking the usual grandiose-ness of the summer film, and for that reason may be a miss at the box office despite the all star cast and Pine’s not to be missed performance.