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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 UK Critic
½ star out of 4

Oh my word, what a weird movie this is. Rob Reiner's "The Story of Us" is atrocious from every angle, a film with a pointless concept, evasion of its central issue and the most embarrassing moments of comic relief you could possibly imagine. Who wants to see clips of a married couple fighting for an hour and a half, especially when we never really understand what they're arguing about, we don't know how seriously we're supposed to take it, and it keeps getting interrupted by some of the worst-written 'wit' in entertainment history? Not me.

Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer star as the husband and wife, who live in suburbia and have two young children. He's a sitcom writer. She scripts crossword puzzles. They put on an act of happy families for the kids, but in private can no longer stand each other. Flashbacks attempt to show us the marriage disintegrating. Present-day scenes involving the former lovebirds are a combination between shouting matches and uncomfortable silence.

One my major problems with "The Story of Us" is that we're rarely actually informed what it is the couple are fighting about. The one scene that does reveal the problem at hand is completely insipid -- Willis is trying to tell Pfeiffer that his old apartment block has been demolished, and she's doing something else, and can't hear him. Aww. The rest of the time the pair are telling each other how bad they feel or how much they hate each other, but they don't say WHY. What started all the fights we see? Who knows. Reiner, the director, and his screenwriters, Jessie Nelson and Alan Zweibel, just want to show us a parade of insults.

The characters are strange people anyway. At the dinner table, they always play a game called "High-Low", which involves all family members taking turns to share their best and worst moments of every day. Do people do things like that in real life? I thought that kind of sentimental crap was just for 1950s sitcoms?

The dialogue is abysmal. People around me in the screening of the film must have thought I was an oddball, because I was literally wincing at it. Then again, maybe they knew how I felt. There is an array of dire ironic speeches in the movie, all of which are so transparently constructed that they come across as read rather than spoken. They appear when Willis and Pfeiffer are asking their friends for advice, and resemble obnoxious versions of the chatter in "Seinfeld". Typical example: "Hey, I jerked off to your secretary last night; is that okay, or against the rules?" "Pound away, man, it's not an affront to me." "Cool. Hey -- whaddya think -- is masturbating technically cheating, or not?"

Here's an even worse moment, involving Reiner himself, in a smug cameo appearance as one of Willis's friends. The two guys are walking in the park, talking things over. Reiner stops in the middle of a pathway, bends over and says something to the effect of: "You see that? That's my ass, right? Wrong. There is no ass. Just a fatty part at the top of my legs. There just is no ass! And just as there is no ass, there is no true love. It's all an illusion." I swear to God I'm not making this up. The movie really is this bad.

The ending is yet another speech, a big, loud emotional moment in which Pfeiffer starts screaming a revelation about why she and Willis should stay together. This goes against everything that has gone before, and her reasoning, essentially, is that even if the couple end up leading miserable lives, at least they won't have to face change. Was this movie made by aliens who wanted to satirise human irrationality? If so, I wish someone had told me before I went in. It would have clicked things right into context.

Copyright 2000 UK Critic

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