Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle The Story of Us

By Marjorie Baumgarten

OCTOBER 18, 1999: 

D: Rob Reiner; with Michelle Pfeiffer, Bruce Willis, Tim Matheson, Rob Reiner, Julie Hagerty, Rita Wilson, Paul Reiser, Colleen Rennison, Jake Sandvig, Jayne Meadows, Tom Poston, Betty White, Red Buttons. (R, 94 min.)

Rob Reiner's gone back to the well for this drama with comic underpinnings that examines the difficulties couples face when trying to make relationships work over the long haul. The film might as well be called When Harry Met Sally ... And Woke Up After 15 Years of Marriage to Discover That the Things That First Attracted You to the Other Now Drive You Apeshit. Oh, cruel irony. Certainly, Reiner knows this isn't a news flash, yet he stages this movie as though he's discovered some great truth -- or to put it another way, "the story of us." Well, I'm not so sure I want to be a member of this all-encompassing "us." Willis and Pfeiffer are perfectly fine -- and perfectly gorgeous -- as the maritally troubled couple, Ben and Katie Jordan. These actors are not what's wrong with this movie -- it's the hit-or-miss material they're given to perform. Merry witticisms collide with empty clichés, leaving these characters with little trace of realism. The secondary characters fare even worse. The Jordan children are too good to be believed, Reiner pops in as Ben's best friend only to deliver snappy aphorisms on demand, and as his wife Rita Wilson has the thankless task of playing the loud, pushy and vaguely dissatisfied spouse. Even the dilemmas at the heart of the Jordans' marital woes lack clarity and conviction, which make the film's resolution seem like an abdication of the story's through line. The schematic organization of the story doesn't help matters either. Scenes jump around in time covering memories of the couple's 15 years together. Inevitably, however, they are all neatly linked thematically. Even when apart, it seems as though these spouses act in mirror images. It's one of those telltale signs that erases any possible surprise that might await in The Story of Us. Ultimately, the movie delivers a few knowing laughs and the hint of a couple of tears, and will leave audiences feeling a little better about the tension in their own relationships than they did going in. But The Story of Us really only reveals one ugly truth : Beautiful people have all the beautiful problems.

2 Stars


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