This is Alex Kurtzman’s first big screen directorial debut. You may be asking yourself who this man is and if you should be familiar with him. The answer is yes. He’s one of the screenwriters responsible for the Transformers movies as well as Star Trek and the upcoming Star Trek sequel. So to go from his usual work within science fiction to a directorial debut like People Like Us, a character inspired drama may be unusual, but under the circumstances of this film being inspired by true events (his own), it’s more than possible.
Sam Harper (Chris Pine) is a corporate barter, someone who trades rather than buys and sells. He’s the kind of guy that will find something that you need and trade you for something that you have way too much of and make a profit while doing so. On same day that he learns that his record producer father has passed away he gets himself into trouble with his boss by shipping some boxes of soup on some non-refrigerated train cars.
Returning home with his girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) he sees his mother, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) for only the fourth time in over 12 years. Sam has plenty of issues with his family and especially with the way his father had treated him. He comes to learn that while his mother has gotten the house in the will, and he gets the extensive record collection, there is a small bag stuffed with $150,000 cash and a note from his father asking Sam to deliver the money to a young boy named Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario).
Not knowing who this young man is, Sam tracks down the apartment and finds the mother of the young boy, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks). He meets up with her in an AA meeting and discovers that she is in fact his sister and Josh is his nephew. Now Sam is torn with what he should do with the money since he has plenty of trouble in his own life that he could use the money to help fix with this recent problem involving the soup and with the Federal Trade Commission now entering the picture. And now he’s got to come to terms with this entire other life that his father had that he never knew about and how and what that means to him.
One of the first things that people will probably be pointing out in this film is that there is an incestuous tone to it at points. Sam and Frankie while getting to know each other are finding that they have a connection to each other and with Sam not being upfront and honest with Frankie in regards to what that connection is, it comes across as being romantic in nature to Frankie. She sees a kind man showing interest in her and her son and it’s something she’s not seen before. So naturally she sees him as being a potential provider and someone who she could settle down with.
We, the audience can understand why Sam is reluctant to identify his true identity to Frankie. First there’s the money, and second there’s the possibility that he may face rejection from Frankie and her son. But when the truth does finally come out, there’s deep sense of betrayal felt on Frankie’s part because she’s grown to trust Sam.
The acting is good. Banks and Pine have a good chemistry and are well suited on-screen together. The stand out on the screen though is young D’Addario. His scenes are wonderful to watch and the scenes he has with Chris Pine are very sweet to watch.
While not a perfect first outing for Kurtzman, this is a good start. Hopefully he can put together some good sci-fi script and dazzle us with a character driven sci-fi film that he’s probably a little better suited for. People Like Us is a pretty good character film that deserves a look though.
FINAL GRADE: B –