Monday, May 7, 2012

People Like Us

Who is Alex Kurtzman?  Is he the writer of Transformers, "Star Trek" and "Fringe", or is he something altogether different?  "People Like Us" is a sample of his softer side and a more creative writing style that doesn't require explosions, fight sequences, CGI or 3D special effects.  He knows how to write a character in such a away that you want to cheer for them, even when you know they are a jerk.  The problem with the rest of his resume is that he hasn't really needed to use his character development and writing skills as those would be secondary elements to the films he usually works with.  With the resume that Alex Kurtzman has, it might be surprising that this is actually his debut film as the writer and director. 

The story is a surprisingly fresh twist on the son trying to overcome the dysfunctional family and disapproving father.  The story begins with us being thrown into the shit storm that is the life of Sam (Chris Pine) who works as a barter system trader, which requires a unique skill in manipulating and taking advantage of his customers to make a profit.  He is dedicated to his job to a point that he ignores his family and loved ones.  This leaves him to be absent from his parents Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) and ill father prior to his death.  Upon returning home to his family home, after missing the funeral of his father, he is given a large sum of money to be delivered to the half-sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had.  The story develops around this element as the relationship between Sam and Frankie grows and becomes awkwardly ambiguous.  Sam's girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) is yet another story arc that while important never gets properly developed.

The smaller roles of Jon Favreau as the asshole boss at the Barter and Trading company; Mark Duplass as the downstairs single neighbor with an attraction towards Frankie; and Phillip Baker Hall as the attorney that has to deliver the message from Sam's father each provide a nice compliment of edginess and softness to counter the tense situations of the film. 

For me this is a film that deserves 4 Quacks and reminds me of some underrated films from the past year.  On an emotional level it reminded me of "Friends With Benefits" and "The Music Never Stopped".  The writing and performances are all well done.  I anticipate this film not having a long life in the theater, but hopefully you will all mark you calendars to look for "People Like Us" on June 29th.  If you miss it in the theaters, be sure to add this to your Netflix account or hunt it out at Redbox.  You will not be disappointed. 

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