Film Scouts Reviews

"The Story of Us"

by Debra Lass

The official tagline for "The Story of Us", directed by Rob Reiner, is "Can a marriage survive 15 years of marriage?" The real question should be: can an audience survive the overly sentimental and un-funny 90-minutes it takes to portray the meltdown of a 15-year marriage between two neurotic individuals who have absolutely no chemistry between them?

Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Ben (Bruce Willis) Jordan are an average, middle-class couple experiencing average, middle-class marital woes. Not - they are anything but average. Katie, a crossword puzzle designer, considers herself the "designated driver" of the marriage while Ben, a writer, is the hopeless romantic who forgets to do things like put windshield wiper fluid in the car. Big deal. If this was all most married couples had to fight about, the divorce rate in this country would plummet. Not once was the M word mentioned. That's because the Jordans seem to have plenty of it - money - or so it would seem from the reckless way their over-emoting tears into the mission-style scenery of their well-appointed, Los Angeles home. Every fight scene (and there are plenty of them) is played so loudly and abrasively that the woman sitting next to me actually closed her eyes and lowered her head against the onslaught. When they aren't fighting, the Jordans repose in stony silence or put on a happy face in front of the kids.

The screenplay, by Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson, is so filled with glib, pop-psycho-babble it makes you kind of wonder whatever possessed talented artists like Rob Reiner, Michelle Pfeiffer and Bruce Willis to commit to this project unless they felt that they - all (or almost all) veterans of D-I-V-O-R-C-E - wouldn't have to dig too deeply in their emotional reservoirs to pull it off. Problem is, the script never really deals with the issues. Instead they are treated as fodder for one-liners or contrived gags such as when Ben's friend, Stan (Mr. Reiner), explains that the perfect marriage is an illusion in much the same way that an ass is nothing more than the tops of the legs. What a metaphor. In fact, it's not a metaphor at all, but a set up so that Ben, after being made to feel that his failed marriage is all his fault, can yell at Stan to take his advice and shove it up "the tops of his legs."

Billed as a romantic comedy, "The Story of Us" falls more into that netherworld of a genre called the dramedy. Actually, this film never seems to be able to make up its mind what its genre is - sashaying back and forth between the documentary in which characters address the camera, slapstick, melodrama and stand-up. The performances are uniformly over-the-top with only a couple of genuinely touching moments provided by - surprise - Bruce Willis. Ms. Pfeiffer pulls out all the stops in her final monologue which is meant to dispel 15 years of bad marriage in a moment, but is so poorly directed that, instead, what comes to mind is a woman in labor being coached by an overzealous obstetrician to "Push! Push!" Sadly, her considerable talent is wasted, and unfortunately for all concerned, just as the marriage it portrays, "The Story of Us" comes up as empty as the calories in the schmaltz it so closely resembles.

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