People Like Us is a family story, and a bit of a tear-jerker. It’s stars Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks as siblings who didn’t know the other existed until their father died.
The story begins as we watch Sam (Pine) arrange some legally questionable barters for big money exchanges. One of them involved sending thousands of boxes (not cans) of tomato soup across Mexico. It went bad when the 110 degree heat made all the boxes burst. Now somebody wants a lot of money and they plan to take it out of Sam’s hide.
This is the moment when he gets the call that his dad just died. He and his girl friend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) head for California. Sam doesn’t want to go, but Hannah calls his bluff. He hasn’t told her the kind of financial trouble he’s in.
At home, the first moment he’s alone with his mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) she slaps him for never coming home during his father’s illness. As People Like Us goes on, we see that Sam and Lillian actually have a pretty good relationship. There was some pent up anger in their first scene.
The next day his dad’s friend and lawyer Ike (Philip Baker Hall) calls him in to talk about the estate. His mom gets the house and all the furnishings. Sam gets his music producer father’s huge collection of vinyl and music memorabilia. And Ike gives Sam a small shaving kit bag that he father left for Sam to deal with.
Inside the bag is $150,000 and a note to deliver it to an address and to “take care of them.”
At the address in question, Sam discovers Frankie (Banks), an overworked and overstressed single mom and her kid Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario). Josh just blew up the pool at his school and may be expelled.
Sam follows Frankie to an AA meeting. He figures out by listening to Frankie talk about how her father just died that Frankie is his sister and Josh is his nephew.
He strikes up a conversation with Frankie after the AA meeting. He follows her to work. He likes her. He meets Josh and likes him. They like him. They all click immediately. Sounds perfect, right, except for one thing. He doesn’t tell them who he is. He’s still considering running with the $150,000.
Sam is not a great guy. He lies all the time. He runs away from any emotional experience. He was damaged by his absent father.
Frankie was messed up by her own childhood. Her father suddenly stopped coming around when she was 8. By the time she was in high school she was using drugs and alcohol and was promiscuous enough that she doesn’t know who Josh’s father is.
And then there’s Lillian, whose husband led a double life that Sam has to tell her about without making her drop dead from her heart condition.
Every moment that Sam hesitates over telling the truth vs. running with the cash digs him into a deeper and deeper hole. The film is considered a comedy, so you can probably guess it all works out in the end, but I’m not going to fill you in on the details. I’ll let you have the fun of watching it.
It was fun to see Chris Pine as the morally questionable character he played in People Like Us. The chemistry between Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks was incandescent, which added to the quandary caused by him knowing they were family and not telling.
The 2012 film People Like Us recently became available on Amazon Video, Netflix, and iTunes. If you didn’t see it back in 2012, give it a look now.