People Like Us hinges on a flimsy gimmick that tends to be creepy as opposed to charming. The film tells of a selfish man discovering a half-sister he never knew, but instead of telling her right off, the film lets them bond in ways that are easily construed to be dates. Aside from that gimmick not paying off the film is far too saccharine, on par with a Lifetime movie consisting of A-list stars. While Banks is the stand-out of the cast, the rest of the characters are one-note archetypes and the acting shows. People Like Us makes a great television film, but not a theatrical one.
Sam (Chris Pine) is a businessman being investigated by the FTC. After the death of his father he discovers the old man squirreled away $150,000 to be delivered to a half-sister Sam never knew. In deciding what to do with the money Sam meets his sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), a struggling single mother with substance abuse issues. As Sam figures out how to tell Frankie the truth, the two come together and discover a revised meaning of the word “family.”
Just writing the synopsis made me roll my eyes. It’s not that director and co-screenwriter Alex Kurtzman’s heart isn’t in the right place, it’s just that the message is shoved down the audience’s throats. You know these two people will eventually come together in the end, and with that you better deliver an amazing combination of acting, pacing, and story to keep audiences from getting bored waiting for the expected payoff. The only interesting, and fleshed-out character, is Elizabeth Banks’ Frankie. Banks excels at playing hardened women with hearts of gold and that’s what Frankie is. She’s been let down by men and has decided to raise her son to be the man she wants…and she’s failing. Their story is filled with pathos and complexity that it makes Sam’s story pointless and selfish. Chris Pine is stuck in the rut of playing the “total ass you’re supposed to find endearing” and it’s already worn a hole in his character. Sam is so unlikable that when he’s bonding with Frankie you can’t ignore the fact he’s a jerk. It didn’t work in This Means War and I think it might be time for Pine to move on to a new character trope.
The major issue is what the film hinges on: that Sam won’t tell Frankie she’s his sister. When I first saw the trailer for this I assumed it was a romantic comedy, and even once the trailer told me they were related…it still played like a romance! That doesn’t change as Sam waits till almost the end of the film to reveal he’s Frankie’s brother and they go on actual dates! She flirts with him and Sam flirts right back! Their banter never feels like a brother and sister but two lovers embarking on a relationship and that’s just gross. It doesn’t help that once the secret is revealed the rest of the film falls back on every other romantic drama trope making it even more unsettling from missing her at a location to the happy bonding at the end. The emphasis on the music industry also seems force fed. I understand that was the man’s job but there’s a meandering speech given by Michelle Pfeffier’s character that seems like it’s name dropping. Oh and Olivia Wilde’s in this…for about ten minutes.
I didn’t hate People Like Us, it’s just stupid. The plot is a mess, the actors have played these characters to the hilt in other movies, and it’s just cheesy. It’s not even good cheese, but the sappy Lifetime pap you can watch for free at home. It’s a DVD rental if you enjoy the actors and nothing more.