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People Like Us—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
June 29, 2012 1:45 AM
4 Comments
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People Like Us

Alex Kurtzman has an imposing list of writing and producing credits, mostly with his partner Roberto Orci, including such commercial hits as the Transformers movies, the reboot of Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible III… but for his directing debut (written with Orci and Jody Lambert) he has chosen an intimate story about a uniquely dysfunctional family, inspired by incidents in his own life. It’s the kind of anti-blockbuster I would love to champion, if it were only better.

Chris Pine plays a guy who lives on the edge in his business dealings, and has a loyal girlfriend in Olivia Wilde. Then he learns that his father has died, and grudgingly boards a plane for Los Angeles to attend the funeral. He hasn’t seen his father in years, and maintains an arm’s-length distance from his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). Then one of his dad’s oldest friends hands him a wad of money, left for him by his father with a terse note instructing him to pass it along to a woman and her son. It turns out his father had a second family. She’s a hard-working single mom, played by Elizabeth Banks, and she’s Pine’s half-sister.

That’s the setup for this drama, which the preview trailer would have you believe is a comedy. (If studios are so certain audiences won’t go to see a dramatic film—even a good one—why do they make them in the first place?)

Pine’s dilemma is that he doesn’t know how to explain who he is to Banks. In the course of this struggle, he builds a relationship with her and her rebellious young son. In time, he also begins to deal with his mother and tries to break down some walls between them. But as the movie becomes protracted, stretching almost to the two-hour mark, it loses not only its momentum but its credibility.

Pfeiffer, People Like Us-325
Photo by Zade Rosenthal - Courtesy Dreamworks II

I’m not sure the co-writer of the interminable Transformers movies would be the first person to recognize that a film is running too long, or that compressing some story elements might strengthen them. I can’t imagine that this film wouldn’t have been considerably better if it moved at a brisker pace.

There’s one more problem that’s a bit awkward to confront. We all enjoy watching attractive performers on screen, but beautiful people are not necessarily the best choice when you’re trying to tell a story about “people like us” and their day-to-day problems. I don’t mean to deride the talents of Pine, Banks, Pfeiffer, or Wilde (who makes a conscious effort to look unglamorous), but you have to admit they make an exceptionally good-looking ensemble…too good-looking, perhaps, to give resonance to this material.

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4 Comments

  • Robert | July 6, 2012 12:34 PMReply

    This was an excellent movie. Did you want them to change some of the cast because they were too "good-looking." Come on now, they all did an excellent acting job. And the standout actor in this, besides Banks, was the little kid! He really seemed like a tough little kid just waiting for a father figure to love/be loved. Had me shedding a tear! And I am allergic to sappiness but this movie delivered on so many levels! Go see it now!

  • Great Movie! | July 5, 2012 6:55 AMReply

    Never believe the critics...they only feed their own egos trashing other people's work. I was pleasantly surprise with the movie. It is a movie to treasure very close to your heart. We need more of these movies that show the kindness, the forgiveness and the humanity society lacks. By the way, I have a friend who's story is extremely close to the plot of this movie. Great work..It is a movie to remember and I would love to see it again.

  • Michelle | July 3, 2012 6:11 PMReply

    " but you have to admit they make an exceptionally good-looking ensemble…too good-looking, perhaps, to give resonance to this material.". NO, I don't have to admit this! Being good looking doesn't mean the story doesn't resonate. They all did a fantastic job. The movie really tugged at my heart. Also, this film doesn't run too long. I love a a movie that delves into what is happening. Not a good review.

    Everyone out there, go see this movie!

  • Elephante | July 3, 2012 1:11 AMReply

    Hmmm- I have to disagree with this review- too begin with your end- attractive people exist in abundance in our everyday kind of world and aren't exempt from life's unkindness & challenges. Nothing about their physical attributes detracted my attention and ability to key into this drama.
    The story line surrounding these characters produced a multitude of dramatic life moments that were believeable enough as one relates them to family. If taken abit too far - well - that's ok with me as I don't go to see a movie that replicates my own life. There were many touching moments that anyone from a dysfunctional family can relate to and the beauty of having it all tied up in 2 hours is that it brought you thru the entire process as to soulfully glimpse into another way of making choices in the interest of love & family versus ego . The lesson of things aren't always what they seem to be especially when you are so sure they are was a great reminder about life.
    I really liked this movie & highly recommend .

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