With an all-star, stellar cast and a sentimental narrative fit for a good ol' Hollywood drama, it's a surprise to see how little publicity there has been for People Like Us, as with so little coverage Alex Kurtzman's debut feature could almost pass you right by, and this would be a shame, as People Like Us is an emotional and poignant study of character.
Sam (Chris Pine) is facing losing his job over allegations of fraudulent behaviour in the workplace, but when he learns that his recently deceased father has left behind $150, 000, he realises that he could soon be offered a lifeline. However, upon flying to his mother Lillian's (Michelle Pfeiffer) house to comfort her in light of recent events, he discovers that the money left behind is in fact to be passed on to his half-sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her troublesome son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addadrio): two people whom Sam had no idea even existed.
Sam – who always had a turbulent relationship with his record producing father – is disappointed and surprised with the news, as he feels let down by the man who raised him, having never been informed that his father had another child outside of his family. Given his work situation, Sam faces a moral predicament as to whether or not to give the money to cocktail waitress Frankie or to keep it for himself and girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde), so to help him come to a decision, he gets to know his half-sister, but the longer and more attached the pair become, the harder it will be when he needs to tell her who he really is.
Although being your typical Hollywood manipulative sob-story, People Like Us works well, and manages to be sentimental without being overly mawkish, retaining a level of sincerity which lets it off the hook in many instances. As a result we are presented with a very accessible, undemanding watch, that although has some issues that could do with being ironed out, isn't trying to be anything it's not, resulting in the perfect rainy day film.
The film is helped along by a series of strong performances – including cameo roles from the likes of Mark Duplass and Jon Favreau – with Pine shining in the lead role. There is just something likeable about him, something approachable. The actor is really coming into his own at present, as he has now shown he is able to competently perform in a variety of different genres. We've seen him excel in sci-fi such as Star Wars, thrillers such as Unstoppable, and now a sincere drama in People Like Us. He also tried his hand in comedy earlier this year in This Means War and came out with his reputation in tact. Good man.
Meanwhile Banks is equally as sympathetic, which helps when attempting to understand and empathise with her predicament and the overall story. D'Addadrio also impresses, defeating any initial scepticism based upon his initial appearance. When first introduced to him, I did just think he was going to be another annoying American boy with long hair that pops up in this sort of movie, but he's actually pretty good.
On a more negative side, there are a few too many plot holes, most noticeably the fact Sam is on the verge of an arrest for a serious fraud allegation, but hey, since when does that ever get in the way of things? There are also a few too many arty shots, which although creative, seem somewhat out of place. Nonetheless it's a promising first effort for Kurtzman, and he should be commended, at the very least, on his musical choices. With a soundtrack comprising Bob Dylan and The Clash, you can't go far wrong.