With a cast that includes Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer apparently the “people like us” referred to in the title are all exceptionally good-looking persons. Just as the cast reflects a specific, unreal vision of real life, so does the script.
Chris Pine plays Sam a sleazy New York salesman who is on the cusp of being investigated for fraud. When his estranged father passes away he travels to Los Angeles only to confront his mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and his father’s legacy—a daughter named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) from a second, secret family.
This family drama has much going for it, but gets almost fatally bogged down by melodrama and the way the movie stretches out Sam’s inability to tell Frankie why he’s glommed on to her and son Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario).
To make up for the slow moving story director Alex Kurtzman tries to jumpstart the pacing with frenetically edited scenes that would seem more appropriate to an action film. I know Chris Pine is best known as the young Captain Kirk, but not all his movies need to be cut as though a fight is about to break out.
It’s too bad because at the core of the film is an interesting story, which is ably performed by the good looking cast (even if they are frequently saddled with long melodramatic, confessional speeches).
Pine proves he can do more than action pieces and Pfeiffer has a small, but complex part, but it is D’Addario who adds heart to the story. As Frankie’s troubled eleven-year-old son he grounds the movie, giving the viewer a reason to feel empathy not only for him but for Sam and Frankie as well.
“People Like Us” is an effective family drama, clumsily told.