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Story of Us

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Story of Us

Starring: Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer
Director: Rob Reiner
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: October 1999
Genres: Comedy, Drama

*Also starring: Casey Boersma, Jake Sandvig, Rita Wilson, Julie Hagerty, Tim Matheson, Rob Reiner, Colleen Rennison

Review by Greg King
2½ stars out of 4

Cynics would suggest that Bruce Willis stick to doing what he does best - saving the world with all guns blazing - and leave acting to more qualified thespians. But Willis has, in the past, delivered some quite surprisingly rich and subtle performances that have demonstrated more to his range than a smirk and a quick way with the one-liners - the troubled Vietnam vet in In Country, the abusive husband of Mortal Thoughts, the faded boxer in the cult classic Pulp Fiction. The runaway box office success of both Armageddon and The Sixth Sense has given Willis the clout to again try his hand at serious acting, and damn what his fans or the studios want.

While Breakfast Of Champions has not fared well at the US box office and is likely to disappear straight to video here, his other uncharacteristic venture is far more enjoyable.

The Story Of Us explores a marriage headed for the rocks after fifteen years. Willis plays writer Ben Jordan, while Michelle Pfeiffer plays his wife Katie, who briefly separate and reassess their relationship while their two kids are away at summer camp for a month. While their kids are around the two try hard to present an outwardly happy facade, but when alone they either bicker or descend into silence. Rather than comfortable, these silences are oppressive, shaped by tension and the weight of memories, both good and bad. Their friends (Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, Julie Hagerty, and an uncredited Paul Reiser) offer well meaning advice. Eventually, Ben and Katie learn that no marriage is perfect, and that the key to establishing a lasting relationship is compromise.

Written by Alan Zweibel (Dragnet, etc) and Jessie Nelson (Corrina, Corrina, etc), The Story Of Us is a genial enough romantic comedy that puts the ideal of marriage under a microscope. This is somewhat familiar territory, having been explored previously in films as diverse as War Of The Roses, Divorce American Style, He Said, She Said, and the twee The Last Married Couple In America, etc. While it would be easy to be cynical about the whole concept of marriage today, the film is surprisingly optimistic, warm and laced with some winning humour.

Director Reiner (When Harry Met Sally, etc) is a dab hand at romantic comedies, and handles the material efficiently enough, although there are a few scenes that are badly misjudged. However, the montage sequences that encapsulate fifteen years of highs and lows in about fifteen seconds are quite effective.

Willis seems quite comfortable playing largely against type, and his performance is solid, revealing several layers to his character. However, the scenes in which he is required to cry are not convincing at all. At the time he was filming The Story Of Us, Willis was undergoing his highly publicised split from Demi Moore, and one can only guess at the psychological insights and emotional baggage that he brought to the role. Pfeiffer is a veteran of playing romantic leads (One Fine Day, etc), and one would have expected a lighter, more assured and convincing performance from her. The biggest problem is that they never quite gel as a couple, and their obvious mismatch more often than not works against the movie.

Nonetheless, The Story Of Us is an entertaining enough romantic comedy, and, at a rather brisk 90 minutes, never quite outstays its welcome.

Copyright 2000 Greg King

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