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David Poland

By David Poland

Review-ish: People Like Us

People Like Us is the best screenplay with which Alex Kurtzman has ever been associated. It’s not perfect. It’s not even Cholodenko-level, much less the Mazurzkian comedy/drama at which he seems to have been aiming. But it’s pretty damned good. Interesting idea, reasonably solid story structure (too much repetition, not enough of the mother, not enough response to events)… you could do a lot worse than to see this film coming out of the studio system.

The performances are excellent. Chris Pine finally delivers another gear and he makes it look like he’s been navigating this range of skills and emotion forever. Pfeiffer is great… albeit a little underused. Elizabeth Banks is solid, though is forced to spend a lot of time reacting or being pensive. The kid is quite good too.

The biggest problem with this film is a first-time director who is trying SO HARD that it actually distracts from the script. It’s like Kurtan has seen so much Bay and Tony Scott that he thought he could make a movie that topped theirs by having all the visual and real emotion on top of it. He was wrong.

This is the kind of script that a good indie director could have made a grand meal of. It doesn’t call, in any way, for the attempted visual fireworks. The editing – and it’s a very good editor – made me insane. Stop already!

I truly wish Kurtzman had the $3 million that this film is normally made for and not whatever Disney gave him to keep him happy blowing stuff up elsewhere. His vision would have been better served.

The movie is still serviceable. Quite good at times. This is a career changer for Pine, who will be seen differently by quality filmmakers after they see his work here. And I, for one, will look forward to Kurtzman’s next effort behind the camera… so long as it’s as light in CG and heavy on humanity as this film.

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11 Responses to “Review-ish: People Like Us”

  1. Chucky says:

    “People Like Us” is actually from DreamWorks — Disney is only distributing.

  2. Paul D/Stella says:

    Sorry for posting this again. Didn’t see this until just now.

    I did not care much for People Like Us. SPOILERS

    The acting is very good and it has its share of effective moments. But the parts don’t add up to a complete whole. Pine holds his secret for way too long and it hurts the movie. For good reason Banks thinks he is pursuing her romantically. It’s just weird and off-putting. Also people are way too accepting of Pine hanging out with an 11 year-old kid. And the kid, ugh. Always ready with a witty one-liner, saying things kids only say in the movies. It’s grating. Finally, everything is resolved way too simply and neatly in the final 10 minutes. Some critics seem relieved to have seen something with no explosions and lots of grown-up conversation in late June. But that doesn’t make this a good movie.

  3. Paul D/Stella says:

    Oh and I wanted to ask a ratings question. If I remember correctly, It’s Complicated was rated R merely because Martin & Streep briefly smoked pot onscreen. But there’s more than one scene of pot smoking in People Like Us and it received a PG-13. Did I miss something?

  4. chris says:

    Agreed, PaulD. Pine is great but, to me, the “People” script feels like one awkward contrivance after another and that kid is straight out of a DisneyKids sitcom.
    According to the ratings board site, the key difference between “It’s Complicated” and “People Like Us” is that the sexuality in “People” is “brief.” Who knows what that means?

  5. Paul D/Stella says:

    Oh OK. I didn’t think sexuality was a part of the rating for It’s Complicated. The fact that it’s R and People Like Us is PG-13 is really puzzling to me.

    Yeah at a certain point it just makes no sense whatsoever that Pine hasn’t told Banks because he would clearly realize that she believes he is romantically interested in her.

  6. bulldog68 says:

    I remember it being primarily for the pot smoking scene. Here’s what I found.

  7. Krillian says: tends to break down every possible moment that could lead to a PG, PG-13 or R rating, and by their scale, It’s Complicated had more sexuality than People Like Us. Totally subjective, I know, but so’s the MPAA.

  8. movieman says:

    …in related news, the “R” rating for “To Rome With Love” is equally ludicrous.

  9. Rob says:

    Gosh, I want studios to make more dramas too, but this one really doesn’t work. It’s a “why doesn’t he just speak up?” contrivance that just drags on forever. In increasingly typical, can’t-see-past-the-coasts fashion, it’s a “relatable” family drama that happens to hinge on the death of a famous Hollywood music producer.

    Every character is sketched too broadly, beginning with Favreau in the opening scene. Olivia Wilde gives yet another ABC Family-level performance in an admittedly thankless role. How does she keep getting these chances?

    And the kid, I’m sorry, is a movie-ruiner. Both the character and the performance. All of his dialogue is so arch, unfunny, and overwritten, and the delivery is insufferable.

  10. cadavra says:

    PEACE, LOVE & MISUNDERSTANDING also got an R for pot smoking; the picture would be a PG otherwise. It may be that the MPAA was bothered–both here and in IT’S COMPLICATED–by the depiction of old people smoking weed with no ill effects, which could be interpreted by young’uns as, hey, it must be okay for us to do it if those old geezers can.

  11. David Poland says:

    Rob – My agreement on the “get on with it… like I wrote, it’s missing 20 minutes of meaty goodness.

    But still, I think it’s a big step for Kurtzman. And I liked the kid, though the long wait for fruition put too much on him.

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