The screen pairing of macho action star Bruce Willis and serious actress
Michelle Pfeiffer appears to be an odd one, and it is the tale of their
surprising electricity together that is the only story worth telling from
_The_Story_of_Us_--certainly not the messy contrivances of this wannabe
weepie romantic comedy-drama.
Director Rob Reiner is a proven hand at romantic comedy, as seen in
_The_American_President_ and, most famously, _When_Harry_Met_Sally..._.
The shadow of the latter looms large over _The_Story_of_Us_, but it's not
because their stories bear any resemblance. The "us" whose story is told
is Ben and Katie Jordan (Willis and Pfeiffer), who, after 15 years of
marriage, discover that life is far from blissful. The film's fragmented
time structure reflects the couple's state of mind as they look back on
their union: the good times and the not-so-good ones that led them to
ponder a breakup.
With these flashbacks ranging from short to long and occurring at the
drop of a hat, _The_Story_of_Us_ is already a mess without a needless
enhancement that Reiner and scripters Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson
somehow felt the need to include: every so often, Ben and Katie are
separately shown sitting on a sofa, bearing their souls directly to the
camera. It's not quite as annoying as the throwaway interview segments
with old couples that Reiner cut into _When_Harry_Met_Sally..._, but it
has the same obtrusive, distracting effect. I'm not a terribly big fan
of voiceovers, but if their internal comments were simply heard and not
seen, the film would flow a bit more smoothly.
And one wonders why the Jordans' marriage hasn't gone so smoothly. The
audience isn't given a clear idea exactly why things go bad other than
some vague suspicion on Katie's part that Ben is having an affair. There
are also a number of brief bits showing the two angrily yelling at each
other, and Willis and Pfeiffer play the angry scenes for what they're
worth, but those passages aren't terribly convincing because one usually
doesn't know why exactly what leads to each incident. The cozier scenes,
which comfortably showcase the two stars' unforced rapport, are more
believable, and as such, the film is heavily skewed toward their happy
times and leaves little suspense as to how things turn out.
Willis and Pfeiffer are ably supported by the likes of Rita Wilson, Paul
Reiser, and Reiner himself; the standout is Wilson, who gets most of the
film's too few good laugh lines. And that pretty much says all that
there needs to be said about _The_Story_of_Us_: a collection of
performances that are more than the creaky material deserves.