★ ★ ★ 1/2
Starring Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde and Michelle Pfeiffer. Directed by Alex Kurtzman. Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert
A nice way to take a break from all of the summer blockbusters would be to see People Like Us. While it's not cutting edge, its earnestness is refreshing and you'll leave the theatre feeling thoroughly happy. There are no weaving story lines, no intense action sequences and no twist endings, and that means more attention can be paid to the heart and soul of the movie – the story. Though high on melodrama and cliches, this film is genuinely interesting and multi-dimensional, and features unexpected performances from its lead actors.
Branching out of his stereotypical action hero stigma, Pine shows a more emotional side and proves he has the ability to do more serious roles. Sam (Pine) is a down-and-out salesman who reaches a crossroads in his life, which only becomes more complicated when he learns that his father has passed away. While Sam has all the makings of being a bad cliche, Pine adds a different dimension to him and a certain level of humor and self deprecation that makes him interesting and complicated and he gracefully handles resenting his father without being corny or whiny about it. In fact, Sam is a likeable character who you truly care about by the end of the movie. And when he meets Frankie (Banks), you'll find yourself engrossed in the heart-wrenching (and totally platonic) relationship that quickly forms between them. Careful not to fall into the sappy category, the pair's interactions are kept fresh by their ability to poke fun at each other and make superficial conversation while subtly conveying the burgeoning of a much deeper connection.
Fundamentally, People Like Us is relevant in its portrayal of the average American family and its imperfections as well as relationships in general. Relying on the story's emotional punch, the film can feel too heavy and overly sentimental at times, but satisfies a craving for this kind of movie that others in the genre have lately not been able to fill, thanks to its well-developed and clever screenplay. This film is a pleasant surprise and an opportunity to see the untapped talent of its young cast.