Overwhelmed by events, Sam lies on the floor of his father’s study.
In People Like Us, Sam Harper (Chris Pine) is young workaholic, pacing through New York and schmoozing clients into questionable business deals. A call from the Federal Trade Commission slows his flow, coincidentally at the exact time he needs to rush home—his father passed away. Sam’s response plainly lacks emotions, hinting at a troubled past that’s then solidified by his mother’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) literal slap in the face at his homecoming. Tensions only grow as the father that Sam held no bond with leaves him with his life’s biggest secret.
Sam waits at a bus station.
Sam’s father leaves him little in the will, but also a pouch with $150,000 cash and a cryptic note on who to deliver the cash to. Feeling no obligation to his father’s wishes, Sam keeps the cash, but is still driven to find its intended owner. That’s when he discovers Frankie (Elizabeth Banks)—at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting nonetheless. It turns out that Frankie is Sam’s father’s estranged, hidden daughter. Moreover, Frankie’s a struggling bartender who’s singlehandedly raising a troublemaking middle-school-aged son, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). Sam’s drawn to his half-sister and nephew, yet dangerously doesn’t reveal his identity. Slowly, the three form a bond.
Sam approaches Frankie.
In any viewer’s mind, the title “People Like Us” morphs into people like me, people like you, people we all know. That’s the hook of the movie: growing pains and relationships that mirror many realities. The most interesting connection is between Sam and Josh. Josh’s hostility and tough-guy persona is clearly a defense mechanism for life as a latchkey kid, without friends, and a mom who can’t help but be absent. Sam drops his cold surface for Josh, providing a father figure and foundation of support. The relationship is reciprocal as both characters are reminded of human connection, and break down their walls.
Sam talking with his mother.
It’s these individual character sketches that act as the glue holding the somewhat outlandish plot together. Kudos must be given to Elizabeth Banks, who’s character could easily have drifted into the sleazy category, had it not been for her portrayal. Despite the character’s life as a short-skirted, heavily done up bartender, there’s a persistent sharpness to her character that suggests an unexpected intelligence. Her strength is tangible—as is the years of forced independence and struggle that grew it. Despite the stretch of any writing, Banks’ character helps keep the story true and charming.
Chris sitting on the doorstep of Frankie’s home.
Chris Pine wears black high top chucks with black shoelaces throughout most of the film. There are a good number of full shot scenes showing his chucks, but the best scenes are closeups of Sam walking around in his chucks.
Sam walking up a staircase.
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