PEOPLE LIKE US
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by BR
Sam (Chris Pine) makes a lucrative living as a corporate barterer. Unfortunately, one of his deals violates federal safety regulations and attracts the attention of the Federal Trade Commission. The only way Sam and his boss can avoid an investigation is to bribe a government official by financing the official’s home renovation. Sam’s boss tells Sam to fix their problem by spending his own money to procure the expensive construction materials, like copper and “diamond grade” wood.
When Sam returns home, his girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) tells him that his cancer-stricken father has died. Sam was estranged from his dad, so he reacts unemotionally to the news. The next day, Sam and Hannah try to fly from New York to Los Angeles for the funeral. Sam, who keeps calling business associates to find the construction materials, forgot his picture I.D. He cannot get his boarding pass, so he and Hannah miss their flight. They find his I.D. in the glove compartment when they return to their car, but the next flight to Los Angeles won’t get them there in time for the funeral.
Sam’s mom, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer), sits alone in a church pew, waiting for her son to arrive. When it becomes obvious he won’t make it, she nods to the pastor, who begins the funeral.
By the time Sam and Hannah arrive at his parents’ home, the funeral reception has ended. Lillian greets Hannah warmly, but it’s obvious that she’s upset with her son. It doesn’t help that Sam and Hannah will fly back to New York the next day; Hannah has a law school interview. Hannah goes to bed, but when Sam tries to comfort his mom, she slaps him.
Upstairs, Sam finds his dad Jerry’s prescription marijuana when he’s looking for bedding. He ventures into Jerry’s den, a testament to the latter’s extensive career in the music industry. Sam examines his father’s well stocked bar, hundreds of records, and wall photos: Jerry, a producer, worked with Elvis Costello, Alice Cooper, and other music legends. Hannah finds Sam in the den, and she asks if he really doesn’t have any happy memories of his dad. Sam tells her that when he was a kid, Jerry would take him to the park every Sunday. But since Jerry stayed in the car listening to demos while Sam played, that doesn’t count.
The next day, Sam drives his dad’s gorgeous vintage Mustang convertible to meet with his dad’s lawyer and best friend, Ike (Philip Baker Hall). Ike wants to discuss the will. Lillian will receive the house; Sam gets his father’s old records. Sam is disappointed that Jerry didn’t leave him any money. Ike gives Sam his father’s shaving kit, as well. He adds that when Jerry married Lillian, he had to loan him a suit. He never saw the suit again and got stuck with the catering bill, too. Nonetheless, Ike loved Jerry, and he hopes that Sam can too.
When Sam opens the shaving kit, he finds thick rolls of $1000 bills. The kit contains $150,000 in total. Sam is elated until he opens a note from his father: Give this to Josh Davis…Take care of them. The note also gives an address, presumably Josh’s.
Miles away, at his middle school, Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario) drops a block of pure sodium into the school’s pool. He tells his friends the chemical reaction between sodium and water will cause the pool to explode, but they don’t believe him. Suddenly the water erupts, destroying part of the pool. Josh’s friends run, and after a stunned silence, so does he.
Josh’s mom Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) rushes to the school to pick up her son. She’s dressed in a short, tight dress and high heels, the uniform at the bar where she works. The principal has decided to expel Josh, but a formerly apologetic Frankie jumps to her son’s defense. She asks the principal why teachers left explosive materials unattended and asks where Josh learned that sodium explodes in water. She implies that if Josh is expelled, she’ll hire one of the pro bono lawyers who hit on her at the bar.
Sam arrives at Frankie and Josh’s apartment building. Frankie and Josh arrive home, arguing, so Sam hides and watches them. Frankie convinced the principal not to expel Josh, but in exchange Josh must see a therapist. Josh mouths off to Frankie and calls her Carol, after their overweight smelly landlady. He slams his bedroom door in Frankie’s face and tunes her out by listening to music.
Frankie’s friend calls her and tells her that she read about Jerry’s death in the newspaper. Sam watches Frankie run downstairs to her friend Ted’s apartment, where she tears Jerry’s obituary out of Ted’s newspaper. Frankie asks Ted to watch Josh while she goes somewhere for an hour, and she’s so distracted by the obituary that she blows off Ted’s invite to dinner later that week.
Sam follows Frankie across L.A. to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When it’s her turn to speak, Frankie reads Jerry’s obituary, which mentions that Jerry has a wife and a son. “It’s official,” Frankie says. “I don’t exist.” Sam blinks in shock: Frankie is his half-sister. When the meeting attendees take a break, Sam strikes up a conversation with Frankie. She’s smoking and a little defensive at first, but when Sam asks her for a cigarette, she warms up to him.
Sam returns to his mom’s home, where Hannah is waiting up for him. She’s mad at him for ditching her and his mom all day until he tells her about Frankie, his secret half-sister. Hannah thinks Sam should tell Lillian about Frankie and give the money to Josh, but Sam wants to keep the cash for himself. He’s in debt, and now his job is in jeopardy. He wants to go back to New York and forget about Frankie. Hannah tells him that he runs from everything, and she decides to fly home.
The next day, Sam parks outside of Josh’s middle school. While talking on the phone to a wood supplier, he sees his “nephew” come out of the building. Josh’s pool friends approach him and warn him not to tell any adults that they were with him when he blew up the pool. Sam hangs up on his supplier when he sees Josh’s former friends shove him to the ground.
Josh takes a bus to a record store. He tries to shoplift a cd, but Sam catches him and makes him put it back. Sam tells Josh he should be listening to bands like The Clash. Sam introduces himself as a friend of Frankie’s, and Josh rightly guesses that they met at A.A. Though Josh is initially suspicious of Sam, the two eventually connect over music. Sam buys Josh a stack of punk rock discs for his musical education and gives Josh a ride home. Before he drives away, Sam finds out where Frankie works: at a bar downtown.
Later, Frankie and Josh go to their first counseling appointment. They’re late. Frankie is surprised when the therapist asks her to sit in on the session. She tells the therapist that Josh was a good baby who never cried.
Sam listens to his phone messages. The first is from his boss. Sam failed to procure the construction materials in time, and the official reported his boss’s company to the FTC. The second message is from an FTC representative, who tells Sam to call her back immediately so he can assist in the investigation.
Sam goes to Frankie’s bar and pretends to run into her by accident. She asks him if he wants to buy anything “that’s on the menu,” because she thinks he wants to hit on her. Sam assures Frankie that he’d never, ever hit on her, and she pretends to be offended. They converse while she cleans the bar, and he eventually gets her on the subject of their dad. Frankie tells him that Jerry left when she was eight, but when Sam presses her for more information, she gets defensive. Sam apologizes and tells her that his distant father recently died too, so he can understand her pain. Frankie seems touched.
That night, Sam finds Josh’s backpack in his car. He listens to Josh’s therapy cd, a narration that plays over the following montage. Sam smokes weed, stumbles around his father’s den, and breaks some records. Frankie can’t sleep, so she paints her nails, goes downstairs to have sex with Ted, then rushes out before Ted can ask her to dinner again. Lillian finds her son sprawled on a rug in the den, and she invites him for a late night walk.
Lillian and Sam share a joint and talk about Jerry. Sam asks how his dad ever got her to go out with him. Lillian met Jerry when she was working as a coat-check girl at The Troubadour. Jerry, already a Hollywood mover and shaker, charmed her by telling her that she looked like Joni Mitchell. It helped that Lillian decided to become a singer when she first heard Joni Mitchell sing. Jerry introduced Lillian to people like Linda Ronstadt and Stevie Nicks. He had an ear for musical talent. One night he asked her to perform for his music industry friends. Lillian did poorly, and she realized that Jerry knew she would do poorly and only asked her to sing to embarrass her. Sam tells his mom his dad was an asshole, and Lillian defends her late husband. She’s angry because Sam only visited them when he needed money. He didn’t even visit his father when Jerry was dying. Sam protests that Jerry was a terrible dad, but Lillian thinks that Sam doesn’t remember all the good things his dad did. Sam warns Lillian that she doesn’t know everything about Jerry, but Lillian disagrees.
Josh and Frankie are late to another counseling session. Frankie lies about why they’re late, and Josh contradicts her. The therapist “fires” Frankie and Josh as clients because Frankie lied in front of her son.
An upset Frankie attends an A.A. meeting. Afterwards, Sam approaches her to say goodbye. She beats herself up about being a bad mom, but Sam tells her that she’s a great mom. Frankie asks if he needs to leave right away or if he could stay and grab some tacos with her. Sam tells her that he’d love to grab tacos.
While eating, Frankie and Sam try to one-up each other by confessing the bad things they’ve done. Sam 'fesses up about intentionally missing his dad’s funeral. Frankie says that before she was pregnant with Josh, she ran wild. She’d wake up, snort cocaine, get drunk, and have anonymous sex. She doesn’t know who Josh’s dad is, but she’s so grateful to her son, because having him saved her. Frankie and Sam develop a nice rapport. From Frankie’s perspective, they’re flirting; from Sam’s perspective, they’re joking around like a brother and a sister might.
Sam accompanies Frankie to a Laundromat and learns more about her relationship with Jerry. Jerry used to stay with Frankie and her mom every Sunday, and he’d take them on picnics. One day he stopped coming around. When Frankie was fifteen she bought a nice dress and went to Jerry’s office to see him. He kept her waiting for an hour and then took her to a friend’s house, where he got high and drank. At the end of the night, he gave her $50 and drove off. Frankie gave up on him after that. She hated Jerry’s wife and their son, his other family, because they got him.
Hannah receives a phone call from Sam. He wants to make up with her; she’s reluctant. He tells her he’s met Frankie but that he can’t tell her that she’s his sister. Hannah tells him that he is going to hurt this woman. The next day Sam visits Ike’s law firm with his dad’s shaving kit.
Sam, Frankie, and Josh drive along the coast. They have a great time and film their adventures: eating crab at a roadside restaurant, talking with bikers, watching a beautiful sunset. Sam continues to ignore calls from the FTC.
One afternoon, Sam takes Josh to buy groceries. They joke around until Frankie comes home. Frankie is shaken, and she reveals that Jerry left Josh $150,000. Sam is happy for her, because the money will provide them with a better life. Frankie doesn’t want the money, and she becomes offended when Sam tells her that she has to take it for Josh. She begins to grill Sam about the inconsistencies in his story. Frankie wants to know why Sam is so nice to them. “I want you to be happy,” Sam tells her. Frankie is upset because sooner or later, Sam will return to New York, and then what will she tell Josh? She leaves for work, and Josh comes out of his bedroom. He wants to hang out with Sam, but Sam is stressed and snaps at Josh that he’s going home. Josh is hurt, and he yells at Sam, “I’m not your fucking son!”
When Sam returns home, he hears Lillian collapse. He finds out that plaque has built up around her heart. Lillian has known about her condition for over a year, and she could correct it with a four-hour outpatient procedure. Lillian tells him that she’s fed up with doctors. She and Sam argue, and Sam reveals that he’s been spending time with his half-sister Frankie. His mother’s reaction tells him that Lillian knew about Frankie, but Lillian runs to her room rather than answering his questions.
Sam drives to LAX. Josh is in class. His former friends give him the finger. In response, Josh picks up a textbook and charges one of the kids. He slams the book into the other kid’s face. Frankie receives a call at work and rushes to Josh’s school. She gets stuck in traffic and calls Sam; she begs him to meet her at Josh’s school, but he tells her he’s at the airport. Frankie hangs up. When she arrives at the middle school, she sees her son sitting on a bench. Sam is sitting next to him.
Although the principal convinced the other boy’s parents not to press charges, Josh is expelled from his school. As Frankie tucks him into bed that night, he apologizes. She tells him that she loves him, and then Sam comes in to tell Josh his six rules of life. They include, “Don’t shit where you eat,” and “Lean into it.” The rules were originally Jerry’s. When Sam joins Frankie in the living room, Frankie embraces him. She asks him to stay with her and Josh, adding that, as a former addict, there’s nothing he can say that will shock her. Presumably, she wants to have a romantic relationship with him. Sam confesses, “I’m his son.” He tries to apologize to Frankie, but she attacks him. She hits him and throws his bags out the door. She tells Sam never to come home. Frankie dissolves into tears when Josh comes out of his room, and he comforts her.
Sam calls Hannah. He gets her voicemail. He leaves her a message wherein he apologizes for his behavior. He explains that he told Frankie who he was and that she hates him. Before he can tell her how he feels about her, Hannah’s voicemail cuts him off.
Frankie goes to Ike’s office but leaves when she sees how much money Jerry has left her.
Sam takes Lillian to a hospital for her procedure. While he’s waiting for his mom, Hannah appears. She wants to know what he was going to say before he was cut off. Sam tells her he’s tired of running. They reconcile, and Hannah guesses that he’s going to stay in L.A. Sam doesn’t know what will happen with the FTC investigation, but he needs to be in L.A. for the time being. Hannah reveals that she got into NYU’s law school, as well as UCLA’s. She will join Sam.
Back her home, Lillian answers Sam’s questions about Frankie. She made Jerry choose between his family with her and his family with Frankie’s mom. Lillian thought she was protecting Sam, but instead she drove a wedge between father and son. Jerry was always aloof with Sam because when he looked at his son, he saw the daughter he had given up. Lillian gives Sam an old videocassette, one containing a family movie.
Sam watches the video for a few moments before something on the screen causes him to jump up. He races to Frankie and Josh’s apartment, but they’ve moved. He can’t find their forwarding address.
Frankie and Josh, with Ted’s help, unpack at their new home. Josh finds the camera he and his mom took on their road trip with Sam. He watches a clip of Sam drumming a beat on a crab shell, and he decides to visit his uncle.
Unbeknownst to Frankie, he looks up Jerry’s address in the phonebook and then takes a bus to Jerry and Lillian’s neighborhood. Josh knocks on the door the same way that Sam beat a rhythm on the crab’s shell. He’s taken aback when Lillian answers the door and tells him that Sam is out. Josh introduces himself to Lillian, and after a few moments she smiles and shakes his hand. She invites Josh inside, and he leaves his new address for Sam.
Later, Josh and Frankie pull up to their house and see Sam sitting on their front porch. Initially, Frankie wants to drive away, but Josh convinces her to talk to Sam. Frankie is still very angry with Sam, but he begs her to let him show her one thing. If she still wants him to leave afterwards, he will, and he’ll never contact her or Josh again. Sam tells Frankie that they’re family and that he wants to be a brother to her. He thinks Jerry wanted them to find one another, and he shows her Jerry’s note as proof. Frankie seems to soften a bit.
Inside, as Sam queues the tape, he asks Frankie if her mom still took her for picnics after Jerry left. Frankie tells him that she did. Sam plays the videocassette, which is a silent home movie.
There’s a brief shot of Jerry before he turns the camera to film a scene at the park. The camera lingers on a young boy for a moment before focusing on a mother and her young daughter, who are eating at a picnic table. Frankie recognizes herself and her mother. The camera’s focus returns to the young boy: it’s Sam.
Frankie, Josh, and Sam watch as a young Sam and a young Frankie meet on a jungle gym. The children run around the park and eventually begin swinging on the swings together. Jerry wanted his children to find each other all along.