Tuesday, July 3

REVIEW: People Like Us

Directed by Alex Kurtzman
1 hour 55 minutes
From Dreamworks

Chris Pine
Elizabeth Banks
Olivia Wilde
Michael Hall D'Adarrio
Jon Favreau
Michelle Pfeiffer

It meant well.  I knew from the beginning that it meant well but I had to wait until the end to appreciate it fully.  I think of it as a play in three acts.  The third act was touching and I got a little teary-eyed.  The first act was pretty dull, establishing characters and getting us plugged in on the who, what, where, why, how of it all.  I do commend the writers for taking the time to do some character development; it's just that it didn't grab me. 

The second act, however, is what's wrong with this film.  You likely already know that a guy discovers upon the death of his father, with whom he did not get along, that he has a sister. (She had been ditched in her pre-teens years by the dad.)  He finds his way into her and her son's lives but doesn't tell her until the third act who he is and what's going on.  The writers explain that away in the third act by having him say that he wanted to keep the one hundred and fifty thousand dad has left her son.  His life is kind of a mess and he could use the booty.

Ok fine.  Let's face it, if he had told her in the first or the second act, the story might be over, making for a short movie, or at minimum it would have to be rewritten.  The truth is it should have been rewritten anyway and the pages for that second act put between a large fan and an open window.

The fact is that not telling her sooner just made for a helluva lot of awkwardness for the characters and a lot of finger-tapping on the cupholder for me.  It just didn't work.  The siblings, as played by Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, are both quite attractive and one might assume that she would have hit on him at some point earlier in the relationship.  She knew that he was already in a relationship but I don't think that would have stopped her from making a move on him at some level, even an attempt at some hand-holding, some sweet gesture perhaps out of gratitude for the time he spent with her son.  He, of course, would have stopped her because he knew they were siblings.  But wouldn't she have tried?  And because she didn't try for so long, there was an awkwardness about their relationship, most of their dialogue, some of their motivations or lack thereof. 

There was a second story involving Pine and his mother, Michelle Pfeiffer, that was interesting and there was more there, too.  Had it been developed and the second act rewritten (perhaps having the two women meet, which they don't), we could have explored some fascinating relationship issues.

I do applaud the film, too.  Adding Olivia Wilde, as Pine's girlfriend, to the mix, makes this one hot cast.  I think their combined acting chops were in evidence throughout.  I love Pine's face.  I think that face was made to be up there on the big screen.  It speaks to me.  I'd like to speak to him and say that I am waiting for that one really good role to snap him up.  I think Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke should be remade (let's acquaint today's young audiences with some bloody good writing and potential for hot acting) and Pine would be great in the Laurence Harvey role.  I'm just saying...

Keep working, Elizabeth Banks.  One day she is also going to get that one role that will make her a household name.  She brings such truth to every speck of work.  This film was lucky to have her.

There is no acting in this film I could fault.  The kid's role is prominent and certainly couldn't be pulled off by some lightweight and Michael Hall D'Adarrio nailed it.  Pfeiffer was perfect in, again, a role that I feel was underwritten.

I had not been aware of Alex Kurtzman, but perhaps that is because this is his first directing job.  It does seem like he has quite a full writing resumé and he did co-write this film.  And I think there's the chance that all that is simply too full a plate for a first-time director.  I can imagine in an effort to tweak a scene to have it play better, maybe even to cut lines or add some, a first-time director would not be objective enough to pull it off.  He would remain true to his own writing rather than see, as a director, that it's not working.

I loved what the film had to say about family and forgiveness and learning to work more with one another.  But in addition to that poor second act and the fact that a little film like this is in your local cinemaplex with all those monster summer films, it doesn't look so good for people like them.

NEXT POSTING:  With the Beat, Beat, Beat of the Tom-Tom

1 comment:

  1. Elizabeth Banks makes me want to be naughty.