Writer-director Alex Kurtzman embodied the golden rule of the arts: Create what you know and magic will happen. Kurtzman’s People Like Us (co-written by Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert) reflects his own personal story of discovering a “secret” family and how that affects a person, particularly as an adult. In the film, Chris Pine is Sam and Elizabeth Banks is Frankie. They don’t know it, but they share the same father and that fact is discovered once he passes away.
Frankie reads about it in the Los Angeles paper while Sam is summoned home to attend the funeral. When Sam meets with his father’s attorney, he is handed a shaving kit with $150,000 in it and a message to deliver it to Frankie. Surprise! You have a sister.
The real thing happened to Kurtzman, although it is dramatized greatly in People Like Us. The filmmaker discovered a sister when he turned 30 and the emotions that play out over the course of the movie could not be more real. The key to that fact is the stellar performances turned in by his leads (don’t miss our Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks interview).
Pine and Banks are uncanny as siblings who are only recently discovering their shared lineage. Banks, always amazing, efficiently channels a woman who grew up without a father and is herself a single mother to a tween, while also doing her best to keep her alcoholism in check.
Pine nails it with a sweeping character arc over the film that shows that the Star Trek star is one serious actor. Beginning the movie as a self-obsessed salesman with bulging panache, Sam is confronted with one of those moments in life that can shake you to your core or mold you into a well-rounded adult with your emotions firmly in check. In the hands of Pine, it is a fantastic study in an actor evolving a character impeccably (don’t miss the People Like Us trailer).
And in a role that deserves Oscar attention, Michelle Pfeiffer supports the lead players as Sam’s mother. The long-suffering wife, who now sees more of her husband in her son than she cares to, also takes an arduous character journey that mirrors that of Pine’s. The actress lets it all hang out, wrinkles and all, and gives her most bare-bones performance of her career.
But the true star of the film is the writer-director (Alex Kurtzman exclusive interview). The way he layers the performances while letting the audience into the emotional powerhouse of a story is mesmerizing.
The man who co-wrote a slew of blockbuster movies (Star Trek, The Amazing Spider-Man sequel) shows in his directorial debut why his larger-than-life films work so well. He is a master of weaving character development and story structure all while connecting both to an audience hungry for more by the time the credits roll.