People Like Us (2012)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

People Like Us

No matter how badly we want life to conform to our idea of "perfect," life has a way of upending our entire, comfortable world, and challenging us. That is the idea behind this charmer – albeit a quirky one – that could have done so much better at the box office had it trimmed out a scene or two.

Considering it’s an interesting look at human behavior and the reactions we have when things don’t go our way, writers threw away too much potential.

At work, Sam (Chris Pine) is one of the best when it comes to the art of conning – or to put it more politely, in the business world of corporate barter. He has just closed a major deal when his boss rains on his parade with bad news – his last deal involved mistakes in the shipping method which is costing the company major headaches including a potential FTC investigation – unless Sam can see to it that remodel project met with exact specifications is put on the person’s house who would report the company. A little bribe never hurt anyone, right?  Sam finds himself with bigger problems when he learns that his father has passed away after a long battle with cancer. Since he hasn’t been home in years and never could stand the sight of his record-producer father, Sam is loathe to return home even with his devoted girlfriend, Hannah (Olivia Wilde) by his side. His mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is less than pleased to see her son after the years he had no contact with his parents but all Sam wants is to get whatever money his father left him with the hopes of straightening out everything at work, and leave. Little did he expect that the only money he is entrusted with has a note for Sam to see to it that the cash get to someone else.

Struggling to keep afloat, single mom Frankie Davis (Elizabeth Banks) is trying to raise her son, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario) the best she can but working all hours as a bartender and a recovering addict limits her ability to be around. With her son making trouble at school and news that her father has just died, Frankie’s world gets worse. Furious at his father for leaving him nothing but an old record collection, Sam investigates on his own to discover who Josh Davis is and his search leads him to an AA meeting where he learns that Frankie is his sister – the sister he never knew he had.

Films that explore human behavior in a very “real,” realistic way always earn brownie points with me. If they are done with enough pizzazz but yet are kept wholesome and heart-tugging, usually I’ve found a new favorite script to gush over. Not to its favor – though “inspired by true events,” in comparison to the film We Bought a Zoo, this cannot touch how heartwarming the Matt Damon vehicle was. People Like Us is a scripts that could have gone horribly sideways and didn’t, but it doesn’t excuse its bouts of unexpected crudities.

If you can stick with this for at least half of its runtime, the film is a rewarding one. It so (so) easily could have wondered into slippery territory and instead it chose to focus its energies on growing Sam into a place where he will accept and understand his family relations – and even himself, in ways that he has previously ignored. In those elements, the movie shines and uses clever nuances to illustrate a charming picture of family life – sometimes even humorously so. Regrettably for the script, that is where some of the charm ends. The filming in that first half of the movie is a bit sketchy and not at all conducive to warming its viewer to the hidden gems People Like Us has to offer. Additionally off-putting is some of the characters attitude and behavior; in one scene we do nothing but shake our head at Sam’s drunken (and drugged) rage fueled by his hatred of his father. As a viewer, this scene is more destructive than informative in my opinion. It may be human nature to lash out at anyone or anything if we feel wronged but it’s also a tired plot mechanism that is more annoying and in reality does nothing to endear the character(s). Making up for an abrupt ending and other flubs are the few scenes that humorously show how similar Frankie and Sam are thanks to shared DNA. Pacing and immoral characters notwithstanding, this is a sweet little film that didn’t get the attention most movies do because it plays right into the hands of critics who do bash it. There is a lot of good to be taken in with a movie like this because essentially, with their flaws and mistakes, it is a story about ‘people like us.’

CONTENT: One scene depicts two characters using drugs. Other scenes involve alcohol consumption and one character is an alcoholic. Profanity consists of several uses of sh*t among other common profanities plus one use of the F-word. Frankie visits a neighbors apartment in the middle of the night for the purpose of a tryst [we see them up against furniture and wall removing clothes as things fall to the floor]; there is also some crude humor including Josh sharing things about his neighbors and crushing on his teenage babysitting and a veiled reference to a sexual act as he claims that he knows “what to do” about it. There are also a few assumptions made about Frankie’s lifestyle – namely that she sleeps around. Frankie makes a move on Sam, not realizing who he is before he leaves. The film is rated PG13.



  1. I'd wondered about this one -- thanks for the review!

  2. First off... I LOVE THE NEW HEADER PIC! :D

    Secondly, I've been intrigued by this movie. But maybe that's because Chris Pine is in it. lol!

    You're not the first to have said the scriptwriters missed a great opportunity. And, even though I haven't seen the movie, I have to agree.

    Thanks for the review, Rissi!

  3. Ruth - hey! So great to see your name over here - you've been missed. :-)

    I liked this movie but felt it was too flawed to be overly excited about. The most I'd ever invest in this is to rent it again but there are some special moments and that is worth something. Hope you enjoy if you see it - and I'd look forward to your thoughts! :-)

    Rosie - aw! Thanks! This may be the most fun I've had designing a header yet. If ever there was one I could create a little crazy, it'd be this one. :-)

    LOL! Chris Pine is great! I always enjoy the films I've seen him in - prior to this, it was This Means War which sadly had some flaws but wound up being more fun than I gave it credit for. Here, I wish some of its conversation had been cut because it usually ruined what was otherwise a tender scene all in the name of "comedy." I have news for the script writers: It wasn't humorous.

    There are some redeeming qualities though - hope you enjoy if you see it. :-)

  4. I just watched this one last night. I agree that it easily could have slipped into dangerous territory but I still felt uncomfortable and awkward watching some of the scenes between Sam and Frankie. I think Josh's crudity for shock value and humour was misused. I think Chris Pine did a wonderful job acting and overall the movie was good, but I wish a few of the scenes had been scripted differently. Thanks for the great review!

  5. Wow! Well said, Lydia - I agree 100%!

    For me, I didn't feel uncomfortable because I felt sure Sam (Pine) wouldn't allow anything to happen though from Frankie's POV, there is a feeling of awkwardness since she is clueless. As the viewer, we do feel for her. Josh's lines were often too crude to even be funny on any level but Chris Pine was FABULOUS, so... in addition to him, there were some special segments that maybe made up for some flaws. ;-D

    Thanks SO much for dropping by - do so again anytime. :-)


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