People Like Us Movie Review – Superb Acting Stands Out Over Story

Boy meets girl. Girl falls for boy. Oops, girl is boy’s sister!

Sam (Chris Pine) is a slick salesman who learns he has three days to fix a critical work situation he created or be fired in the new film by Dreamworks, People Like Us.

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In addition to the possible firing, Sam is on the hook legally for the incident. That same day, he learns his father has died. Apparently, he would rather deal with the legal issues than with his family, as he leaves his identification in the car at the airport to avoid the funeral that he’s to attend with his girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde, in a small, forgettable role).

Sam misses the funeral, but Hannah finds another flight and they arrive just in time to see his enraged mother Lillian (in a fantastic turn by Michelle Pfeiffer). On top of the legal and family issues, Sam is also facing a money crisis due to his work mistake. A toiletry bag filled with $150,000 cash from the lawyer is a welcome relief until he finds it’s not meant for him, but a second family – Sam's sister and nephew – that Sam never knew about. The lawyer has not opened the bag, and it’s up to Sam to decide what to do with the money.

Sam decides to find out about his sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks, in a very solid performance), following her to an AA meeting after her troubled son blows up part of the pool at school. Frankie is a single mother who has had a pretty rough life. He introduces himself, and then proceeds to show up at many places – including at her job at a hotel bar. For unknown reasons, he doesn't tell her that he's her brother…not at the bar, not at the taco restaurant, not until near the end of the film. Sam even follows her son (Michael Hall D'Addario) to the record store, giving him music advice and money to buy some CDs.

In the span of days, Sam is "courting" Frankie, who quickly falls for him. He knows the truth and the feeling isn't returned, but it makes for a bit of an odd situation when she finds out who he is. And the journey to this moment is filled with difficult moments, laughter, discovery – and later, forgiveness.

While the story is on the weak side, the performances of the four main characters (Pine, Banks, Pfeiffer and D'Addario) were strong enough to keep me riveted throughout – even when I knew what would likely happen.

Is People Like Us for people like us? For myself, yes. While some of the situations seemed quite implausible, there were many moments I identified with.

People Like Us is based on a true story, written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert. Alex Kurtzman directed.

The film is rated PG-13.

Mousesteps grade: B-