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
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