“People Like Us” Review: Strong Performances Carry The Weight Of Soap Opera Drama

Family is the one thing you can turn to when times are tough. But when you are estranged from your family, asking for help or turning to them in their time of need can be difficult. There’s even more pressure when your deceased father assigns you a task that requires you to give $150,000 to a sister you never knew you had. People Like Us explores the struggles of responsibility and acceptance.

People Like Us has all the pieces of an uplifting and inspirational film about Sam (Chris Pine), a struggling man whose morals are tested when his dead father’s last wish was for him to give $150,000 in cash to a 30-year-old alcoholic sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew existed, and her troubled 12-year-old son Josh.

The film can be seen as a very melodramatic daytime soap opera plot, but the film is based on a true story. Not that it really helps. The problem with films like these is that I go into it knowing full well how I would approach the situation. No, I would not take the money and run, but nor would I take the lengthy amount of time it took for Sam to come to his conclusion. But that is the trouble with movies like these, people go into these kinds of movies knowing full well how they would approach the situation.

Fortunately, there is a bright side to all of this. The performances in the film completely make up for the terribly weak and predictable premise. Pine definitely bounces back after taking a stumble with This Means War. He may start off as unlikeable salesman who has the ability to sell salt water to a man dying of dehydration, but he comes through in the movie. Right when everything seems like its going his way, it all falls apart, and when he is at his worst, he is forced to do the very last thing he wants to do, go back home.

Pine seems genuinely concerned for Frankie and her son. He learns about her through AA meetings and even uses his sales pitch skills to know more about the sister he never knew he had. Though Pine is a believable and somewhat likeable character, the way he goes about coming to the final conclusion takes too long.

Banks is also gives a strong performance as a struggling alcoholic who has yet to catch a break in life. That and trying to control her rebellious son puts a strain on her life and her non-existent relationship with the deceased father that she shares with Sam. She starts to questions Sam’s intentions, when he puts the moves on her. Realizing his salesman pitch sounds more like flirtation, Sam quickly dashes them, eliminating the possibility of incestial love. Luckily this is taken care of in the early stages of the film, so you can put it in the back of your mind –or choose to forget – and focus on the film. It’s quite fun to see Pine and Banks banter.

But just as things start headed towards the right direction, the film’s pacing it starts to stall. Sam starts to bond with Frankie and her son. The two start to connect through AA, then they share a couple of tacos, Sam stalks the son, Sam has to bail out the son, then they go out on family outings. At no point in time does Sam even start to hint at or make the slightest move to tell Frankie that they are related.

There’s more than enough filler in this story for all characters to struggle with. Sam has his legal troubles with the FTC, Frankie is an addict, Josh is a lonesome trouble-maker destroying the school or picking fights, and above all there is the daddy issue. All of this is pure unadulterated and unapologetic filler. The issues with the father may be the sole reason why Sam and Frankie are in the situation that they are in, but the rest of the fillers seemed like sad attempts to fill time.

Films like People Like Us feel so dull, overdone, and rehashed. I’m just glad that there are some pretty good performances from the cast to make me forget about all the melodrama in the story.

Despite how you may feel about how you yourself would approach a situation like this, People Like Us proves that there are some people out there, that there are good people out there, but for some people, it just takes them way too long to come to the right conclusion.

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