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Heartwarming, painful drama that appeals to the abandoned.
on July 3, 2012
Alex Kurtzman's People Like Us, while not quite aptly named, is an equally feel-good and feel bad drama. There is an ample amount of raw misery in this film. Yet while many of us can sympathize with other children of deadbeat dads, not all of us have secret siblings. And not all of us who lead double lives are as good at hiding one life from the other.
Star Trek reboot's Chris Pine (Sam) and his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) are the surviving relatives of a music mogul who has recently died of cancer. Shortly after his father's death, Sam is contacted by his father's friend and attorney to discuss the will. After learning that his father left him a record collection instead of coin, Sam is handed an old shaving kit bag. Inside the bag is $150,000.00 in inheritance with a note instructing Sam to deliver the money to someone by the name of Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario), complete with an address. The note is coldly signed "J", his father's first initial.
Sam knows nothing of this "Josh", so he stakes out the address, hoping to learn something of merit that would warrant forking over that much cash to a total stranger. As it stands, Sam has recently pissed off his boss (John Favreau) and is dangerously close to legal trouble and unemployment. He could use the extra cash at the moment, but his curiosity trumps his selfishness.
Sam drives to the address and happens upon one of the only actresses out there that I actually like, Elizabeth Banks, (Frankie). Frankie is back from the principal's office with her son (Josh), as he was caught dropping sodium into the school's swimming pool and blowing it up. Frankie then receives the devastating phone call that her father has died (she's having one of those days we all know and loathe when everything we touch turns to ash), but Sam is discreetly watching the family through the window and is unaware of the context of the phone call.
Sam follows Frankie to her next destination when she rushes out of the house, which happens to be an AA meeting. Frankie confesses to the group that she is considering having "five dirty Martinis" when she reads aloud her father's obituary from the paper. Sam then realizes that her father is his father. He decides to get even closer to her and her son to learn more about them both for his own curiosity's sake and to determine if they are truly worthy of such a healthy inheritance.
Olivia Wilde plays Sam's girlfriend Hannah, and I have yet to see her in a film in which she truly wows me. Although, it was a refreshing change to have two leads in a film that are of the opposite sex, yet have no chance of ever hooking up. We can remain confident that even when he acts like a cad, Sam can still fix his relationship with Hannah. Despite taking possibly longer than necessary to confess the truth to Frankie and involuntarily (and predictably) allowing her to fall in love with him first, we never have to fear that the same tired cheating conundrum will rear its ugly head as it does in most films with opposite sex leads.
D'Addario is lovable as Josh, and he is one of the many characters in this film who will, at some point or many, break your heart. Banks hits the nail on the head with Frankie's abandonment issues, and any of us who have ever felt the pain of being a non-existent blip on their father's radars can relate to her feelings of bitterness, hopelessness and the strength everyone says we possess but that we never actually feel. If you were lucky enough to come from a "functional" family, however, People Like Us accurately details how many lives are affected and how they are negatively altered due to one man's choice to leave his family.
This film may make you cry. There was an audible sniffling amongst the crowd. But aside from all of the pain in this otherwise safe film (Banks' acting when she inevitably learns the truth is breathtaking), if nothing else moves you, the ending will. It is a sweet surprise that reenforces the concept of fate which, even if you aren't a believer, possesses an inescapable warmth. Ultimately, People Like Us is a film that celebrates the concept of family and fosters the idea of hope that, in the end, everything will be okay.