People Like Us: movie review

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

While star Elizabeth Banks is good, 'People' is a year's worth of soap opera complications in one movie.

Disney Dreamworks II/AP
In 'People Like Us,' Sam (Chris Pine, l.) finds out he has a half-sister (Elizabeth Banks, center) and nephew (Michael Hall D’Addario, r.) he never knew about.

Alex Kurtzman’s “People Like Us” seems to have been devised for audiences who want to experience an entire year’s worth of soap opera complications in a single sitting. Chris Pine plays Sam, a go-getter salesman whose estranged father has just died, leaving him $150,000 in cash. The catch is that the money is intended for a daughter his father had out of wedlock years before and abandoned. In other words, Sam has a half sister, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), and an adolescent nephew, Josh (Michael Hall D’Addario), he never knew about.

Instead of just leveling with Frankie and giving her the money (which he could sorely use for his own debts), Sam spends quality time with her while pretending to be a member of her AA group. We keep waiting – and waiting – for him to tell her who he is. But of course, if he told her early on, there wouldn’t be much of a movie. As it is, there isn’t much of one anyway, although Banks, as the struggling, bitter, resilient Frankie, is good. The most interesting plot development – Frankie starts falling for Sam – is nipped in the bud. Some things even a soap opera won’t stoop to. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to