And that was as good enough reason as any to see “People Like Us”, the film that has been marketed as the feel good movie of the summer, yet one that I would normally wait for to show up on cable.
The Dream Works release, written and directed by Alex Kurtzman who is better known as a screenwriter for action flicks like “Transformers” and “Cowboys and Aliens”, tells the story of family dysfunction, and how they cope with discovering a long kept-secret after the father’s death.
Based on true facts from Kurtzman’s life, the movie stars Chris Pine as Sam, a somewhat bitter son who rarely makes it home to visit, Olivia Wilde as his girlfriend, Hannah, Michelle Pfeiffer as his mother, Lillian and Elizabeth Banks, as the big secret and the half-sister he never knew he had, Frankie.
There’s plenty of syrupy drama, some tender moments, and a few laughs, but too many unanswered questions for my taste.
I’m not sure why, for example, Lillian is quite unlikable through the first half of the movie, suddenly does a one-eighty and turns into a sensitive, loving mother. The movie’s focus isn’t Lillian, so we’re given no reason for the transformation, and instead it’s left to our imagination. That’s a trick that can work when handled cleverly, but that’s not the case here.
I also found it a wee bit disturbing that once Sam discovers Frankie exists and sets out to try to get to know her, she begins to fall for him romantically, and he still doesn’t tell her the truth right away.
Despite its title, I couldn’t relate to anyone in the movie, and I don’t know anyone else who could either, or who would have handled the situation like any of these characters. Perhaps the title was meant to be ironic, but I doubt it.
Still, the movie is all about the dialogue and most of it in the beginning and the end is solid and almost redeeming, with a satisfying ending. It was just the middle that dragged on a bit, and may find the viewer asking, “Why doesn’t he just tell her?” Instead, in true soap opera drama, he doesn’t until it’s too late.
Interestingly, during an interview about the film, Kurtzman mentioned how he always knew that his father had a child with another woman, but he’d never met her until she walked up to him at a party and said, “I’m your sister.”
At least she was honest about it, and maybe the film would have played out a little better if handled that way.
Still, I liked “People Like Us” more than I expected to, even with its flaws, but it’s definitely a movie that you can skip in theaters, save the $12, and wait for it’s release on DVD.