(Drama, PG-13, minutes)
Chris Pine stars in “People Like Us,” a film loosely based on life events of Alex Kurtzman, writer and executive producer. Kurtzman grew up knowing his father had two other children, but it wasn’t until he was 30 that he met his half-sister. This meeting, along with his idea for telling this story, resulted in an eight-year process of developing the script.
Sam (Pine) is a salesman who lands a huge deal for his company. Mired in debt, his commission will more than get him in the black. Unfortunately, this high begins to come down when he learns that money won’t be coming his way. To make matters worse, he gets home and learns his father, Jerry, has died. In a conflicting state of shock and apathy, he asks his girlfriend, Hannah, about dinner for the evening, trying to mask his true feelings.
Sam grew up as the son of a successful music producer. Jerry rubbed shoulders with a host of artists, but never cultivated a relationship with his child.
Sam’s return home to California is more protocol than it is compassion and grief. What’s left of Sam’s family is his mother, Lillian (Michelle Pfeifer). However, Jerry’s death conjures up secrets in the form of Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her 11-year-old son, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario).
Sam receives a shaving kit bag with $150,000 in cash. The note from Jerry instructs Sam to give it to Frankie. His debt, coupled with the fact that Frankie is a stranger, makes him think otherwise. From there, he decides to go on a journey of discovery: To learn about his sister and nephew, but to also figure out who he truly is.
After a few awkward introductions and not-so-random run-ins with Frankie, Josh is able to cultivate a relationship with her and her son. A bond eventually develops between the three, even with this secret threatening to break it.
Sam embraces the uncle role and empathizes with his nephew. As a boy who lacks a father figure, Josh is eager to have someone fill this void.
Frankie, a single mother, also appreciates Sam’s friendship, assistance and willingness to get to know her. She also speaks candidly about her battles with alcoholism and the last memories of her father, driving off to be with his “other family.” Sam listens, struggling to reveal the truth as he looks at the woman who has his father’s eyes.
This tension between the characters drives the film. Sam wants to do the right thing, but the consequences seem heavier than the benefits. He forges a relationship with Frankie, but without her knowing the truth she gets mixed signals regarding romance and friendship.
There are also unresolved issues with he and his mother due to issues of growing up in home where he was ignored. Lillian is both a scapegoat and sounding board for issues regarding Jerry, which only adds to Sam’s life of dysfunction.
Both Kurtzman and Pine said “People Like Us” is about family and seeing them for who they are: Imperfect people with good intentions who are also very capable of making mistakes. Underneath the heavy issues in the film is a sweet story about redemption, truth and acceptance.