The Surprising Truths in 'People Like Us'
Published: Sunday, July 1, 2012
Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012 17:07
On Friday night I decided to see a movie after a tiring run around the National Mall at 10:30 p.m. I wanted to see Brave, since I’ve always been a fan of Pixar movies and my philosophy class pointed out the significance of the movie — that Brave is the first Pixar movie to depict a heroine, and this heroine is pretty great. After arriving at the theater, I learned that the last showing of Brave was cancelled, so I went with the next movie on the screen: People Like Us.
From the description of the movie on my phone, I expected to see another cookie cutter romcom, but what I ended up watching was an incredibly peculiar movie that brought out the emotions. Maybe it was the fact that I just turned 21 years-old and I was seeing a movie by myself on a Friday night, or maybe it was the fact that it was storming outside or maybe Chris Pine’s beautiful face is emotionally overwhelming. Regardless, People Like Us is an incredibly thought-provoking movie with the best intentions despite its bizarre setbacks.
Sam (Chris Pine) works a typical fast-paced Manhattan business job. He’s a fast talker and a smooth salesman. He has a gorgeous girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) and a great head of hair (Pine’s hair). It’s every cheesy Hollywood movie — or so it seems. Sam’s father dies and he reluctantly flies to L.A. for the funeral at his girlfriend’s insistence that he support his grieving mother. Obviously hoping for a quick exit, Sam arrives at his mother’s beautiful estate, unveiling a very broken home. Sam’s father, a semi-famous record producer, was neglectful and his mother is distant, though it’s clear that she yearns to connect with her absurdly attractive son.
Sam meets with the family lawyer to discuss his father’s will. He discovers that his father left him a toiletries kit filled with 150 thousand dollars and a note instructing him to deliver the money to a “Joshua Davis.” This is where Sam’s life gets complicated. Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario) is a smart-talking troublemaker — that standard movie character of a goofy kid acting out because he’s bullied at school. Incidentally, Josh’s mother happens to be Sam’s half-sister — his father’s daughter who Sam never knew about.
Sam stalks the child, then the child’s mother, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and cultivates a pretty unusual relationship. He helps the alcoholic single-mother and things start to go well for everyone — minus the fact that Sam’s job in New York is falling apart. It soon becomes clear that Sam tries to heal himself and correct the mistakes made in his own bad upbringing by being a good father figure to Josh.
Beyond the odd presence of an almost-romance between Sam and Frankie — they’re siblings (although Sam has yet to tell Frankie) and this would be incest —, it’s weird that Sam clearly sees Frankie struggling financially, yet he withholds the 150 thousand dollars they stand to inherit. Instead of confronting Frankie with the truth about their actual sibling relationship, they go on what seems to be a weird series of dates. Don’t worry: It never actually goes there. Thank God.
Eventually Frankie finds out about the money, which isn’t a surprise since the lawyer obviously has an obligation to tell her. You’ll have to see for yourself how it all plays out from here.
It’s odd, because there are so many places in the movie that I just wanted to be “that guy” and heckle, but it never gets to that point. Sam, Frankie, Josh and Sam’s mother Jillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) are just too damaged and hurt to put down. I came to realize that beyond the cliched Hollywood feel of some of the scenes, there’s something we can all learn from People Like Us. Everyone’s family is imperfect, and it may seem easier to cast them aside, focus on your career and blame others for the imperfections, but that’s the wrong thing to do.
There’s a scene where Sam tells Josh, who is expelled from school after getting back at the bullies — a scene that every member in the audience will relish — the six rules of life that his father never told him. And they are golden. To give you number four, “Don’t like something because you think others will like it, because you’ll be wrong.” Do you hear that, every single person who thinks they're hilarious on Twitter!? Anyways.
If anything, see People Like Us if only to witness the beautiful cast (guys, Olivia Wilde and Elizabeth Banks are in it). I’m not even kidding, there are times when Chris Pine is just too good looking. It’s absurd. Have I mentioned that yet?
But seriously, here’s the main message of People Like Us: Get over yourself and your “busy” life and call your mother. She probably misses you.