People Like Us (12A)


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The Independent Culture

From the man responsible for co-writing Transformers comes this secrets-and-lies melodrama about inheritance and "moving on". Writer-director Alex Kurtzman clearly has a lot invested in a story based on his own upbringing.

Sam (Chris Pine), a brash but failing salesman, flies out for the funeral of his estranged father and discovers that the old man had a daughter the family never knew about.

She turns out to be Frankie (Elizabeth Banks), a single mum and recovering alcoholic whom Sam tracks down at an AA meeting, but for some reason decides not to identify himself as her long-lost brother.

Thus is worked the same gimmick as the Zac Efron crybaby flick The Lucky One, wherein the hero has a number of opportunities to reveal his background and shirks it each time. Just tell her, you want to scream, but instead Sam digs himself ever deeper into a hole, while being careful (just like Zac) to bond with the unsuspecting woman's young son. Kurtzman comes up with the occasional zinger: "You can't shoplift from a record store. It's like kicking a blind man." There's contemporary!

But the film doesn't know when to stick; it keeps piling on the twists like a chronic gambler. And the title is an absurd misnomer: these aren't people like us, they're people like you see in movies, obeying movie-ish standards of behaviour.