Jun. 27, 2012 - Issue #871: Edmonton 2012
People Like Us
Sam (Chris Pine) buys and sells overstock, which is apparently a great racket for people who love to rip people off. The opening scenes of People Like Us show Sam giggly-stoned on his own hustle but neglecting certain details of the job: Sam sends several thousand boxes of soup to Mexico in an unrefrigerated train car, which results in exploding soup, and now the feds are investigating him for criminal misconduct. A young hotshot wheeler-dealer spinning out of control: this guy needs to reassess his priorities! And he's going to have to: Turns out Sam's big-time record producer dad just died and Sam has to fly out to Los Angeles to do some requisite mourning with the mom (Michelle Pfeiffer) he's all but estranged from.
Then Sam's dad's old buddy (Philip Baker Hall, happily accepting his paycheque thank you very much) tells Sam that while Sam won't get a dime of inheritance, he's expected to track down someone named Josh and give him a shaving kit full of dad's money, even though Sam's knee-deep in debts. Here it comes: Moral Dilemma! But it turns out that Josh is just a kid. In fact, that Josh is Sam's nephew, the son of a half-sister named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks, making a valiant effort), progeny of an entire secret second family that Sam didn't know anything about. But instead of approaching Frankie and saying, "Hey, I'm your half-brother, here's a shaving kit full of money," Sam decides to act like he's busting a move. Sam starts hanging out with Frankie and Josh, getting in some uncle/brother practice while the whole time poor Frankie's thinking she met the love of her life. The weirdest, almost interesting thing about People Like Us is that while it's among the most overstated movies I've ever seen nobody ever mentions how deeply creepy-incestuous Sam is being.
People Like Us is the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, who's co-scripted many movies for Michael Bay—and yes, that's a warning. The story is based on "real events," which grants Kurtzman license to drag this motherfucker out like you wouldn't believe, with inserts, mechanical montage sequences (set to AR Rahman's overblown feel-good score) and umpteen exasperating scenes where Sam almost confesses but ... doesn't. Film, the platitude goes, is a visual medium, so instead of having characters speak redundant exposition Kurtzman visualizes his redundant exposition through a barrage of photos, props and signs, like the one above Michelle Phieffer's head when she's about to undergo surgery; the sign reads "SURGERY," and has a little arrow pointing in the direction she's being wheelchaired to. (Another memorable visual aid is the "God is Love" T-shirt worn by a biker to assure us that he's friendly.) Meanwhile, Pine, in a role tailor-made for Tom Cruise 20 years ago, is working it like he wants to get a special Oscar for Most Acting. He makes a meal of every reaction shot. His face never stops moving. The energy expended could probably fuel the Starship Enterprise.
Opens Fri, Jun 29
Directed by: Alex Kurtzman
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