People Like Us

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
People Like Us Movie Poster Image
Sentimental drama is well acted but too mature for tweens.
  • PG-13
  • 2012
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Even though it's quite a sad story at first, People Like Us does have positive messages about the power of family, particularly brother-sister relationships. Siblings, the movie emphasizes, are the only people in the world who know what it's like to grow up with the same parent(s). Blended families should know that, in the film, a wife forced her husband to ignore the child he had from an extramarital affair; as a result, a half brother and sister grow up not knowing each other. Sam's journey is one of redemption, reconciliation, and forgiveness.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People Like Us is filled with flawed characters who still have something to offer viewers. Sam is a slightly unethical compulsive liar who eventually becomes a caring brother and loving uncle. Frankie is a former alcoholic who isn't sure how to manage her son, but she realizes by the end that what's important is being there for him.

Violence

Frankie beats up Sam and gives him a pretty obvious bruise on the eyebrow. Sam's mother slaps him after he misses his father's funeral. Josh punches a classmate and breaks his nose and also pours sodium in the pool, which causes a dangerous explosion.

Sex

Frankie has a quickie with her friend. They keep most of their clothes on but grunt and moan for the few seconds of the scene. Sam and Hannah kiss a few times. At one point, before she realizes they're brother and sister, Frankie attempts to kiss Sam.

Language

A couple of "f--k"s -- one said by an 11-year-old -- as well as "s--t," "bulls--t," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation), "damn," "d--k," "prick," "ass," "a--hole," "hell," "oh my God," and more.

Consumerism

Sam's iPhone makes several appearances. Other brands include Starbucks, Converse, Virgin America, Volkswagen Jetta, Entenmann's cookies, Los Angeles Times, and Minute Maid. A host of famous New Wave and classic rock artists are also mentioned: Elvis Costello, Joy Division, The Clash, Gang of Four, Television, Joni Mitchell, the Faces, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the main characters is an alcoholic who's sober but discusses her past struggles with substance abuse. She's also a bartender, which sounds a bit unhealthy, but she's shown mixing and serving drinks (never having one), and she smokes a lot.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that People Like Us is a drama that tackles mature themes, including adultery, abandonment, and the loss of a father. Starring two actors who are popular with both teens and adults (Star Trek's Chris Pine and The Hunger Games' Elizabeth Banks), the story follows two long-lost half siblings who discover each other after their father's death. Strong language includes a couple of "f--k"s (one of which is said by an 11-year-old), and a kid punches a classmate and blows up his pool as a joke. A single mother has a quickie with a friend (no nudity), and two adults kiss a few times. An alcoholic mentions her past struggles with substance abuse and promiscuity, and a dead man's many flaws (infidelity, lying, leaving a child behind) are discussed over and over again. Blended families may bristle at the way a man and his wife dealt with his child from an extramarital relationship.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byjoshua martinez October 26, 2012

14 and up.

people like us is a great drama movie stars with Chris pine from the movie star trek but this drama movie has heavy themes such as adultery, abandonment, and th... Continue reading
Adult Written byMelandtom July 31, 2012

Very real...good message

I thought it had a needed message..that dysfunctional families can deal with their pasts and heal and have love & respect for each other bringing bonds... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bylab909 July 4, 2012

people like us:)

i really liked this movie! sam is a good role model, although he makes a few mistakes throughout the movie. and frankie is just trying to do the best for her so... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 August 15, 2014

Touching story about family

CONTENT: Violence- one fight. A boy blows up a pool. A violent scene in a hotel room. Thematic elements throughout. A woman slaps a man. Sex- an extremely brief... Continue reading

What's the story?

Smooth-talking Manhattan salesman Sam (Chris Pine) has just found out he's in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission when his father dies. He purposely misses his father's funeral but still travels to California with his girlfriend, Hannah (Olivia Wilde), to visit his estranged mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). Sam's father, Jerry, a famous music producer, has bequeathed him his extensive record collection -- and the task of finding a boy named Josh, to whom he's left $150,000 in cash. Devastated by the news, Sam considers keeping the money until he discovers that Josh's mother, Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) -- a recovering alcoholic and single mother -- is the half sister Sam never knew he had. Sam then ingratiates himself in Frankie and Josh's lives without letting on that he's their brother/uncle.

Is it any good?

Pine and Banks (she especially) are the kind of charming performers who are ridiculously likable -- even in otherwise bland films or forgettable roles. PEOPLE LIKE US, which was directed by Transformers screenwriter Alex Kurtzman, isn't mediocre; it's got an interesting premise and a winning chemistry between the leads. The problem is that when Sam decides not to tell Frankie he's her brother, he violates the sacred Jerry Maguire rule of messing with a single mother. Frankie inevitably falls for Sam -- as would any woman in the presence of Pine's outrageously handsome face and selfless interest in her behaviorally challenged child. That one choice is so unforgivably misguided and, frankly, unbelievable, that it's hard not to cheer when Frankie beats him up after discovering his secret.

But even the fundamental flaw of Sam allowing Frankie to believe that he was just a gorgeous dream guy helping out an attractive single mom doesn't completely ruin People Like Us -- precisely because Pine and Banks are such endearing actors. Before the big reveal, the two get to know each other through deep conversations over tacos, laundry duty, and sodas at a hip hotel bar. Sam also becomes a fatherly figure to precocious middle schooler Josh, who's wise and witty beyond his years (another bit of inauthenticity). They bond mostly via music history instruction, which Sam gladly provides by extolling the virtues of vinyl and New Wave legends like the Clash. Even with its many missteps (the excellent, nuanced You Can Count on Me, this is not), People Like Us' performances make it a sibling drama worth seeing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how People Like Us portrays parent-child issues. Which parent and child have/had the healthiest relationship? How are parents and kids typically depicted in the media?

  • Does Josh seem like a believable 11-year-old? How does the movie depict tween angst? What are the consequences of his acting out at school?

  • It seems like many movies are about misguided adults who become better people by getting to know a kid. Do you think there are enough multi-generational stories in movies?

Movie details

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