People Like Us
For what it’s worth, when I learned that I would be watching a film made by the same people who unleashed Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen upon the world, I had initial reservations. Thankfully, People Like Us is a well cast, smartly scripted human drama with likable characters and surprisingly effective direction. Overall, the film is a surprisingly human drama/comedy and a triumph for the filmmaking team of Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
The story centers on Sam, played by Chris Pine, a slick salesman whose poor decision to cut corners puts his career and finances in trouble. To complicate things, he learns that his father has passed away. Unfazed, he reluctantly goes to California to console his widowed mother Lillian, in a very heartfelt performance from Michelle Pfeiffer. After meeting with his family lawyer, he learns not only that he has a sister, but also that his father’s final wishes were for him to deliver $150,000 in cash to her and her young son. It is then that he enters the lives of down-on-her-luck Frankie (Banks) and her too-smart-to-stay-out-of-trouble son Josh, a surprisingly refreshing turn from relative newcomer Michael Hall D'Addario. Through engaging with the family covertly, Sam, Frankie, and Josh create what can be described as a rudimentary nuclear family. Through this, they alleviate each other’s flaws and bring out each other’s strengths, effectively making each other effective human beings, real people.
The strength of this film ultimately rests on three things: the strength of the film leads, the great script, and Kurtzman’s strong directorial debut. Pine and Banks give convincing and emotional performances as siblings who share the pain of never knowing their father. That being said, I am incredibly pleased with the product Kurtzman and Orci have created. I recall reading that the duo worked on the script for this film on and off for around eight years; the care that the two poured into writing this script clearly shows in each scene. Kurtzman’s direction is surprisingly effective despite being a little too friendly with quick cuts (probably from spending a little too much time onset with Michael Bay) and gives a chance for the cast, writing, and camera work to shine
People Like Us is a compelling human drama with strong comedic elements. If the clever script does not get you, the pure charm of the cast will.