People Like Us is a soapy family drama
Starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Rated PG.
Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci wrote and produced Cowboys & Aliens, the recent Star Trek reboot, the Transformers flicks, and such fine TV series as Alias and Xena: Warrior Princess. From that, um, pedigree, it’s surprising that they should take on a Disney family drama, but Kurtzman’s own background reportedly prompted him (plus cowriter Orci and one other) to head in a different direction for his directorial debut.
People Like Us centres on Trekker Chris Pine as Sam, a New York sales shark who finds himself in several types of hot water. After a big deal goes south, he heads west. His estranged father, a record producer big in the 1970s, has just died, and Sam’s erratic responses baffle his live-in girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) and his mom (Michelle Pfeiffer), in whose Laurel Canyon home they land.
Things get weirder when the family lawyer (Philip Baker Hall) privately hands Sam $150,000, with instructions to pass the cash to a half-sister he didn’t know about. That dough would come in damn handy, so he quietly noses around Frankie (Elizabeth Banks, in tough mode), a single mom and recovering alcoholic with a struggling preteen son (Michael Hall D’Addario). Problem is, as he gets involved with them, he withholds his critical info to the point where—well, how do you think Frankie might feel about this hunk from heaven?
The actors elevate their inherently soapy material, and the movie is exceptionally well shot and edited, utilizing great L.A. locations. But the lack of suspense is dragged out for almost two hours, and the whole thing would have benefited greatly from a lighter touch. In particular, the SoCal–pop background invited a playful score to offset the goop. If Bollywood veteran A. R. Rahman’s goal was to prove that he can churn out orchestral mush fit for Hallmark movies, he’s done his job too well. And, in the end, People tries too hard to be liked.
Watch the trailer for People Like Us.