I just got back from a screening of the new movie "People Like Us" followed by a question and answer session with one of the movie's stars, Elizabeth Banks, and I am still drying my eyes. I am determined not to give too much away, but I will say the film opens with an introduction to Sam (Chris Pine), a man that just can't seem to get his career and his personal life together. While in the midst of a crisis at work, he finds out his estranged record producer father has died and he flies home to L.A. for the funeral.
Sam's character does an excellent job unpacking his family's baggage for us, while carrying out his father's final wish - to deliver $150,000 to a single mom named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her 11-year-old son, Josh (Michael Hall D'addario). The audience quickly realizes that Frankie is the sister Sam never knew about, but she does not find out until much later.
Michelle Pfeiffer plays Sam's mother Lilllian, and although she is clearly struggling with her own issues, it is obvious that Lillian does love her son - or she wouldn't be so upset by his absenteesm in recent years. While Frankie tries to work out her own issues with being fathered by a man she thinks never really loved her, we come to see that she is former alcoholic and drug addict, and admits that she has no idea who her own son's father is.
The audience has an opportunity to see Frankie struggle to right her own wrongs, and give her son the best life possible, while she juggles multiple shifts as a bartender and parenting a strong-willed tween that is acting out from time to time. But what gets her through her exhausting days and nights is the love she has for her son.
The love that a mother has for a child is the first theme that struck me. Both Frankie and Lillian would do anything for their children, no matter how frustrated they become with their actions. But the movie's theme is broader than that, and I think it was summed up most concisely in a scene where Sam, Frankie and Josh go out to out to eat and make friends with a group of bikers, one of which was wearing a shirt that says, "God Is Love."
I know, not the typical t-shirt you would imagine a typical biker to be wearing, which is why it jumped out at me. And I think, at its core, "People Like Us" is a story about love - and that despite how messy it can be at times, it is still there.
After the screening which was sponsored by MARTINI and hosted by The Moms, Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein, Elizabeth Banks joined us for a question and answer session. Banks spoke about what it was like playing a single mother, saying, "I know so many of these women who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders."
As a single mom myself, I think Banks does an excellent job of capturing the stress of that weight - both in dialogue and subtext, so I asked her if she modelled Frankie after anyone specific. Banks said that she has known a number of single mothers, one of which is her sister (who is now married), and "You have 500 million things on your plate - never enough money, or enough time, or enough people to rely on, and you are always wondering how you are going to get it done."
Denise Albert also asked Banks what she thought about the movie's lessons, and Banks replied, "One of the great lessons of this movie is [that] you make family wherever you go - we can't choose our family, but we can choose to like them."
Not a bad lesson both on the big screen, and off. "People Like Us" hits theaters on Friday, June 29.
Disclaimer: People Like Us is produced by Disney, ABC News ' parent company.