The closest people in our lives, the ones we trust the most, are our relatives. We may have our fair share of differences, but they’re always there for us. The concept of family is something that’s been explored for decades in cinema, but Alex Kurtzman’s People Like Us, takes a deeper look at the tumultuous dynamic between brothers and sisters.
People Like Us centers on Sam (Chris Pine), a man who’s down on his luck and trying to escape his financial problems. When his father passes away, he discovers a secret; he has a half-sister. Sam goes on a journey to find his sibling Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) who’s also fallen on hard times. Together they bond and try to make it through the worst of their lives.
During our interview with Pine and Banks, they talked about their character’s turmoil, as well as their own throughout the years. But first, they focused on Alex Kurtzman, the brain behind it all. He based the film loosely off his personal experience when he suddenly discovered he had an unknown sister out there in the world. Several years later he brought us this story. Although it’s close to Kurtzman’s heart, he let Banks and Pine spread their creative wings on set.
Chris Pine: Alex’s greatest gift is his sensitivity and his empathy for what an actor does, his general zen. Alex could not be anymore… you never felt affronted when you said this doesn’t work or cut that, let’s try that, this is bullshit, come on man. I felt like a general sense that it was an absolute team effort when it very well could not have been that.
Elizabeth Banks: I think the best thing about him is that he really invites people into the process. By doing so I think [it] really invites the audience into the movie.
The two explained more about the inner workings of their characters and their own mindset. It goes to show you how invested they got over a period of time.
Elizabeth Banks: First of all, I think it’s important to remember that we’re mourning the loss of our father. We don’t know it’s the same father. My character doesn’t, but at the very least the connection starts there. It’s not a physical attraction that connects us and I think it’s very important to have that scene in the bar when I think he’s coming onto me that I reject him. So you know that’s not what she’s interested in. I think they’re both sort of dealing with a lot of things and it’s that moment really when Frankie, just as she sort of starts opening her heart, he sort of has like knocked down the wall a little bit. To me what he was doing was opening up the possibility of hope for a better life. And love in my life again, being able to rely on someone again. Because Frankie’s alone, and she’s doing this by herself. We all need people and that’s the message of the people. You shouldn’t have to go through all this shit by yourself. You should ask for help.
Chris Pine: The job wasn’t as hard for me on that and I think, piggy backing on what Liz said, what I think is important is that the falling in love, there’s nothing physical about it. What these people are doing is falling in love emotionally. This is the first person that emotionally gets Sam and likewise, vice versa. And it’s because they have this shared commonality and pain. They have the same perpetrator of a violent upbringing and it doesn’t have to be physical. There was an emotional abuse that happened very early on that they both felt very deeply. They have a keen awareness of it, albeit unconscious, about that pain. I think that burgeoning relationship is built on that emotional almost immediate trust with one another. They never felt that with anyone else. That has nothing to do with the physical. That’s completely an emotional, psychological thing.
Everything doesn’t turn up daisies right away for Sam and Frankie. But there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s something Pine experienced himself after a brief moment when he wasn’t sure whether or not he’d make the big time.
Chris Pine: I’ve been very lucky because it took me about a year before I could quit my job working at The Grove. I was a food runner and a host. I’m not a good food service representative at all. But yeah, there was a time when I came back to Los Angeles and I really wanted to live on the Lower East Side, eat bread and do the whole poverty-stricken artist bit for awhile. In those moments where you don’t care and you walk into an audition with that mindset, things start landing like gangbusters. That’s what happened. I came back to Los Angeles, I was going to move to New York and it was done. I was going to go to New York and do my poor artist thing, then I started working and there you go.
In the end, Frankie and Sam are two characters that you want to root for. You want to see them succeed. They’ve gone through all sorts of hurdles, which Pine and Banks believe has to do with who they are their cores.
Elizabeth Banks: To me, Frankie is a survivor. I know a lot of ladies like Frankie. Struggling single mom, trying to create a safe haven for their kid. I relate to that… you have to survive. You have someone that relies on you. You’ve got to get through every single day.
Chris Pine: I like the part about Sam that I see all the time too which is here’s a guy that deflects with words, humor, smile, charm. He’s just not emotionally present at all. All you have to do is go to a cocktail party in Los Angeles and pretty much witness it staring at you all the time. So I just think that Sam is a very human, faulted, screwed up guy whose trying his damnedest to get through this week without dying. He is a fighter too. He’s not exactly a survivor but he’s fighting and I like that.
People Like Us opens in theaters June 29.