PEOPLE LIKE US is under the radar. It’s just a little movie but with recognizable actors. Unadvertised, no media blitz for this modest film, but what a bittersweet tale of family ties, secrets and betrayal. We need more small movies like this low-key tale of redemption. The movie is based loosely on writer/director Alex Kurtzman’s real life story that brings a heads up quality to the action.
The tale begins with a RAIN MAN like scene of a fast taking businessman, Sam (Chris Pine). He is making things happen at various goods production factories where non-selling items are remarketed to make some sort of monetary return on poor performers. Unfortunately his expired soup explodes in an unrefrigerated train on its way to potential Mexican buyers. While negotiating around his boss's less than happy ultimatum on these losing results, he keeps declining his mother’s unusual cell phone interruptions.
Upon returning to his NY home, his paramour, the understanding but no fool Olivia Wilde tells him the sad news of his dad's death. Sam tries to invent many reasons not to attend the funeral in LA but finally he arrives at his mother’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) home intentionally late enough to miss the service only to be greeted with a well-deserved slap on the face.
The father’s lawyer later tells him that Sam is bequeathed only the record producing father's LP collection. At the same time, he is given his Dad’s shaving kit filled with $150,000 and a note to deliver it to a name and address with an added sentence to "watch over them".
It now gets messy. Sam discovers, at this address, a beautiful although skanky-ish single mother Frankie ( Elizabeth Banks) and her prepubescent borderline JD son (Michael Hall D'Addari). Sam learns (while following the young woman conveniently to her neighborhood AA meeting) of her fury at her non-existence by reading aloud her exclusion from her/ their father’s obituary. It gets complicated as Chris Pine ensconces himself in their lives while never claiming his identity.
Bar scenes with his not yet acknowledged half-sister reveal parts of her life with their common Dad while Sam’s independent interactions with the 11 ‘in years almost 25 in sophistication’ nephew whose love of music matches Sam’s, links them genetically to the dead father/grandfather. The mutual anger of his half sister's desertion by their father by age 8 as well as Sam’s own rage at a father never being there for him culminating with no inheritance swim over the two siblings. The story meanders with interspersed confrontations with his mother and her overdue admittance that she insisted the egocentric rock music producer husband/father chose between the two families.
Genetically similar distancing skills and irresponsible tendencies include using ‘the system’ for their own selfish benefit permeate the brother and sister’s interactions. The undercurrent of incest between the two until the truth is told is always present but happily chaste, for the audience's sake. The siblings need unconditional love more than romantic love anyway.
As one can imagine in a Hollywood movie, everyone comes out ok in the end but this reviewer was left with a sadness of parental poor choices and secrets soiling the next generation for many years if not an entire lifetime.
It’s worth seeing but it will not be. There are too many heavily advertised movies this summer and many with 3 D enticements. But some night at home around 10:15pm or 2 am as your remote lingers on the title; watch it and you will be in for an unexpected treat. Or plunk down the cash now at AMC or eventually Netflix. It might make some of us happy we grew up in the homes we did or remind others of us that secrets seldom serve the righteous and typically each player suffers as a result.