Romantic music, check. Attractive leads, check. Heartbreak, check. Love story, well not really. Chris Pine plays Sam, a cocksure salesman from the city, who learns of his father’s death and following the funeral is given a bag with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. However, there is a catch, half of the money is for his half-sister’s son, both of which he knew nothing about. This leads on to an encounter with his half-sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks). Yet as is the way with these kinds of films he fails to notify her of who he really is.

Alex Kurtzman directs his first feature film, however after co-writing blockbusters including Star Trek and The Proposal, he is hardly a novice. This only serves to bemuse me as to why People Like Us is such a poor film. The cast and basis of the story are solid enough, yet the execution is confusing. People Like Us strives to be quirky and independent, but then veers into the middle of the road for much of its dialogue and plot lines.

Sam through his lack of clarity of who he really is, ends up keeping the money. Sam instead seems intent on pocketing the sum to deal with his own financial troubles despite the fact his half-sister is clearly struggling with her young troublesome kid. This kind of selfish act is designed to instil a sense of ‘oh look how much he’s grown’ by the end, however this plot line fails massively. Similarly, the apparent comedy gold that is sibling romance, whereby Frankie gazes lovingly at Sam leads on to some wince inducing moments that are rather uncomfortable to watch. The secondary plot point at work here is the estranged father angle, which is much more successful. The anger that both Sam and Frankie feel for their absent father is believable and well portrayed. But this is a little lost amongst the obvious plot lines and cliché ridden script. People Like Us begins to shine in its final few sequences, and in these quieter moments the direction that Kurtzman was trying to take this film in, begins to become more apparent.

Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks both have fine acting backgrounds thus as you expect they put in more than adequate performances in the darker moments and alongside former House star Olivia Wilde, all show their acting credentials at some points. However, Chris Pine in particular, seems to be a poor fit for the character of Sam. Yes he works as the smart salesman, but ultimately his character lacks compassion, which is encapsulated during an ill-judged scene where he insults Frankie’s eleven year old son. In that short sequence the character loses all sympathy and crucially People Like Us makes no attempt to reconcile the matter.

People Like Us promised something different and yet all it delivered was more of the same. Disappointing.

Christopher Marti

 

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