How does a writer like Alex Kurtzman, known for movies like Transformers, Cowboys and Aliens and Star Trek manage to write a heartfelt drama about family and relationships? In a word, well. In two words, personal experience. The tale of People Like Us is loosely based on Kurtzman’s own family history. Almost eight years ago he met his half-sister and half-brother, children of his father’s from a previous relationship. Unlike the film his half siblings weren’t a secret,but he still described meeting them as a life changing experience.
Chris Pine (yum!) plays Sam, a 20-something fast talking salesman that you quickly begin to love and hate. He isn’t the “good” guy that’s for sure but he definitely has his redeeming qualities. In time his actions are understood when you glimpse the raw human being underneath. The same day the fast-talking “barter man’s” biggest deal falls apart, he also learns his father has died unexpectedly. Despite his avoidance efforts he flies to Los Angeles with girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde).
It’s clear from the beginning his is avoiding the home he grew up in but why? You find out this answer when Sam ventures into his fathers attic treasure trove. It is always here that you learn new things about his father from Sam and how little he was around for him. While he clearly has a tumultuous relationship with both parents, it’s his mother that holds a soft spot in his heart even though they disagree on so many things. Especially where his father is concerned.
Things become even more complicated when Sam meets with his fathers long time friend and lawyer. Expecting a huge portion of his fathers estate he is instead given his dad’s leather shaving bag, stuffed with $150,000 cash and instructions that he deliver the money to a woman and her son. Insult is added to injury with an additional request that Sam take care of them. This blow is made all the worse by the fact that Sam is in debt up to his eye balls. How is he supposed to give $150k to a total stranger? Still undecided about his course of action he decides to seek these people out only to discover this stranger is his 30 year old sister, Frankie, and his nephew.
Thus the adventure begins. One glimpse at Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and she is everything I imagine a single mom to be. She is quick witted, tough, hard working, and doesn’t take anything from anyone, especially their attitudes. On the other hand, she is also vulnerable and wary. Men haven’t left the best impression on her and she has a wall made of concrete thrown up. Her son, played by the new comer Michael Hall D’Addario, was spot on. His character was exactly what I would expect out of a street smart 11 year old growing up with a single mother.
I immediately wanted Sam to give them the money, not because it was rightfully hers but because she so deserved it. Of course, $150k is hard to part with and Sam takes his sweet time getting around to deciding just what he will do with it but he does get there eventually. Yet, there is still one final secret is to be revealed and you’ll never guess who reveals it. I don’t want to give it away but the secret brought tears to my eyes and left a lasting impression.
I loved the characters in this movie. They all played their roles so well but I really could not get over Elizabeth Banks’ portrayal of Frankie – she was exceptional! For an 11 year old, Michael Hall D’Addario has an ability to show a flurry of emotions across his adorable face that most actors could only hope for. There were so many scenes where the look in those big brown eyes said absolutely everything. Of course I can not leave out Chris Pine, Olivia Wilde (although I wish we would have saw more of her), and the ever engaging Michelle Pfeiffer.
I’ll admit that while the movie was good I didn’t think it was perfect. There were times where the story seemed to move along too slowly. I also wish Sam hadn’t waited so long to make his decision. It played havoc on my emotions and Frankie’s too. Maybe it’s the romantic in me but I wished Sam and Frankie weren’t related because I would have loved to see them as a couple.
Despite a few flaws I left the movie with a good feeling and a lighter heart. I also have to give Kurtzman kudos because I don’t remember the last family drama I watched at the movies. I’m talking about a “real” family, one who experiences heartache, resentment, aches and an imperfect life. People Like Us painted a picture that for some people, really is like us.