People Like Us (2 stars)

People Like Us

An intense performance from Michelle Pfeiffer is wasted on this oddball story

With a triple-A list cast, People Like Us appears to be a classy slice of awards fodder, but it soon becomes clear why it’s snuck in and out of cinemas without much fanfare. Director Alex Kurtzman has been a writer and producer on big budget movies like Star Trek and Cowboys and Aliens, but although there’s plenty of star-power behind his break for ‘serious’ status, the results prove unexpectedly weak.

Chris Pine, who plays Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot, plays Sam, a salesman whose career is threatened by his financial exposure to a train full of exploding soup (this event is frequently mentioned but disappointingly not pictured). When his estranged, record producing father dies, Sam and girlfriend Hannah (Tron: Legacy’s doe-eyed Olivia Wilde) return home to his grieving mother Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer). Things become complicated when Sam discovers that his father had secretly fathered another child, now grown up to be single mom Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), who is struggling to raise her own rebellious tween Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario).

So far, so good, in that People Like Us attempts to be an adult drama, dealing with divided families and bereavement in a serious way. But when Sam introduces himself to Frankie and her son, without any mention that he’s her brother, things take a turn for the weird. Unaware that Sam is family, Frankie starts getting emotionally involved with him, but there’s no obvious reason for him to keep her in the dark when each moment that goes by makes his inevitable revelation more painful to her. The reservoir of pent-up emotion eventually bursts with the force of a trainful of exploding soup, but by then, all sense of empathy or interest has gone.

The saving grace here is Pfeiffer, who dares to look pale, ill and resentful for much of the film, an intense performance wasted on this oddball story. Banks makes a feisty soccer-mom, Wilde has nothing to do but look frostily on, and Pine smoulders pointlessly at everyone he meets, completely failing to suggest anything but complete vapidity.

General release from Fri 9 Nov.

People Like Us Trailer

People Like Us

  • 2 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 54min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
  • Written by: Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Jody Lambert
  • Cast: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • UK release: 9 November 2012

Sam (Pine) returns to his family home after his father's death, to discover that he had a half-sister (Banks) who he never knew; however, he introduces himself without telling her who he is, leading to emotional entanglements. Kurtzman's oddball story lacks empathy or interest and Pfeiffer's intense performance as Sam's…