Of the four movies that came to my town this weekend, People Like Us was perhaps the one I was most excited about. Not only was it the less generic/ridiculous looking movie of the bunch, but it also had a good cast that promised good acting. So naturally my fellow movie goer and I set out to give it a try. Amidst a mixed crowd of the elderly, adult couples, and a few single movie fans, we watched the latest drama movie to be unleashed into the world. What was the verdict? Read on to find out.
For those who have missed the surprisingly limited number of trailers, the plot of People Like Us is fairly simple. Sam (Chris Pine) is a barterer for a company that makes huge profit off of wholesaling and is good at making big commissions. However, his successful world turns upside down after receiving word that his father has died and his mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) has requested he come. Unfortunately Sam’s relationship with his father hasn’t been the best and only the promise of money baits him to come. To his dismay however, the cash has been left to a young boy named Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario), whose mom Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) turns out to be his half-sister. Now Josh must discover not only his father’s secrets, but himself as he returns to a world he thought was gone forever.
I know the plot sounds rather deep and spiritual and in many ways this movie is in fact a means to take a look at your life. Unlike many movies these days, the plot is really centered on character development, mainly among the four actors listed above. The directing team focused their efforts on making characters with relatable problems and flaws to connect to the audience, and create people to latch on to and follow their journey. Of the four I have to say I enjoyed Josh’s character the most, facing a world of loneliness and friendless filled days that many have experienced. D’addario’s work was accurate of a preteen facing middle school problems, and seemed to have a mischievous streak that was quite natural. Pine on the other hand was a little more dramatic than I’ve seen in the past, trading his adventurous adolescent bravado for a more emotional role. He did a decent job with the role, but seeing him act as a lying coward for two hours got a little old. Banks on the other hand was refreshing to see as for once she wasn’t playing an overacted comedic role. Of all the characters she perhaps had the most balance of the bunch providing some light comedy by delivering well timed and well written lines amidst a flood of emotional problems. Her backstory also has a lot of detail, enough to make any woman well up an cry from the flood of depressing memories she faces.
You can see that my biggest strength for this movie is the character development, but there a few other things that caught my eye. For one thing, although the story is predictable and rather linear, the delivery is quite nice. Rather than showing tearful scenes of betrayal, passionate rain soaked kissing montages, or tearful exchanges of cheesy, overdramatic dialog, this movie chooses a more casual realistic approach; just like life. Each character had to face their problems in their own way, and use various methods and tools to help them recognize and resolve their issues. While this realistic approach made the movie drag in places, it added a bridge to help bring one into the movie. The ending in particular finished strong and providing closure for the characters that one may or may not appreciate since you have to pay attention to the dialog rather than having it handed to you. Outside of the story, another positive would be the sound/video editing. During various scenes, the music, whether instrumental or a top hit was well selected to best capture the mood of the scene. As mentioned earlier, even the dialog was a plus in this critic’s book. The writing team decided to exchange romantic dialog that makes teens and young adults swoon for a deeper dialog that was fitting for the characters. The comedy was a little dryer than expected, but I was laughing at some parts.
The weaknesses for this movie start with the dragged out pace at parts in the movie. Certain scenes or issues go on for longer than they should, and like a high school teenage argument, can make one roll their eyes. A few of the methods they promoted to help get through the problems were not the best tools to show on the crowd. Using drugs, promoting cigarettes and even acts of theft got a little more glory than they should. Despite her good acting, Banks’ character did get annoying at points, and I pitied her more than respected her. Aside from the predictable story line and a few over depressing moments though, there were not too many additional weaknesses I could find.
Overall People Like Us is a realistic look at particular problems humans face. With great acting, a good character development production, and well balanced soundtrack you can’t help but admire the production quality of this movie. Yet the lack of any real twists, the predictability of the plot, and some overdramatic problems that could have been solved a half an hour earlier are issues you might want to think about. My recommendation is skip this film until it comes out on Netflix/Redbox, unless you have to see a movie this weekend. My scores for this film are the following:
Movie Overall: 6.5