Friday, July 20, 2012

People Like Us

I went into this movie expecting to see a well-written, well-acted drama. It has some great actors and actresses such as Chris Pine (Star Trek, Unstoppable), Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, 30 Rock), and Olivia Wilde (Tron: Legacy, Cowboys and Aliens). I really didn't think I had anything to worry about. The movie opens with Sam (Pine) and Jon Favreau (who never returns) discussing some needlessly complicated problem which is supposed to set up the fact that Sam is in dire need of $80,000 which he has somehow kept secret from his girlfriend, Hannah (Wilde). The cat is out of the bag shortly after Sam is summoned to his childhood home to attend the funeral of his estranged father, which he manages to weasel out of. This is to the great chagrin of his mother, played by Michelle Pfieffer doing all she can not to look glamorous. Sam's only real interest in returning is to hear the reading of his father's will, hoping to be left enough money to at least put a dent in his mountainous dept. To make matters even more complicated, however, his father left $150,000 to a struggling single mom named Frankie (Banks), who just happens to be Sam's half sister.

The story then becomes an escalation of awkward moments as Sam gets to know Frankie out of some bizarre curiosity, all the while harboring a secret that if divulged could... end the movie an hour early. The performances in this film were more-or-less up to par, however there were some aspects of the story that could have been excised to better serve the flow of the narrative. The entire sub-plot (if you can call it that) of the $80,000 dept really goes nowhere and is way too convoluted not to be cut.

Olivia Wilde puts in a great performance, but is also terribly under-utilized. I felt I could have connected with Sam's character better if I could have seen more interplay with Hannah. Chris Pine, whom I normally enjoy, did a decent job, but also became such a strange amalgamation of sympathetic and rebellious that it was hard to relate to. The best performance was from Elizabeth Banks, as her character was easy to understand and root for. She had some pretty funny lines but also sold the emotional struggle she was constantly subjected to as a single parent. My least favorite performance was definitely the annoying eleven year old kid who constantly causes destruction of school property, tortures his hard-working single mother (her being my favorite character didn't exactly help his case), eventually gets expelled, and the screenwriter still expects us to like him just because he somehow kindles a friendship with Sam...? I don't know, it just seems like he never gets any better even after Sam befriends him. He still makes life unnecessarily difficult for his mother and doesn't make any progress with his surprisingly unhelpful therapist.

So many things just didn't click with me. The final scene of the movie is clearly supposed to be touching, but the way Pine and Banks play it makes it feel almost like a Lifetime original movie. Perhaps it was the score that didn't connect with me, but something about the film just didn't work for some reason. Lara will probably be angry if she ever reads this review, but there you go. For what it's worth, I didn't dislike the move per se. I just didn't end up liking it as much as I was expecting, which instantly makes it a disappointment. Still, I'm giving "People Like Us" two and a half stars.

PEOPLE LIKE US is rated PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality.