The Story of Us

Directed by Rob Reiner
Starring: Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Tim Matheson.
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief sexuality.

Review by Matt Heffernan
October 15, 1999

In When Harry Met Sally..., Rob Reiner showed us a couple who learned to deal with each other as friends for years until they eventually get married. What if they hooked up much earlier, before they could work out their relationship? Reiner now attempts to answer that question with The Story of Us.

Ben and Katie Jordan (Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer), at the beginning of the film, are at what seems like the end of a fifteen year marriage. They still put on appearances for their two kids, who they send off to summer camp. After they drop them off, Ben moves into a hotel, and their separation begins.

Through flashbacks during counseling sessions, dinners, and walks, we see the story of their marriage. The film concentrates on detailing the "highs" and "lows" of life. There are multiple montages that show this contrast between utter bliss and passionate anger. They confide in their friends, Stan (Reiner) and Rachel (Rita Wilson), who are just as upset that the couple they are closest to is splitting up.

As expected, Reiner takes these serious emotions and finds humor in them. Ben is supposed to be a comedy writer, so he uses humor as a defense against these tribulations. Willis is well suited to such a role, and we get to see many facets of his ability. Pfeiffer also shines, showing that she can make every laugh and each tear believable. This was certainly a demanding film to make, requiring the leads to express a full range of emotions, and create a dynamic relationship. Reiner's task of putting this all together and have it make sense was just as difficult, and he was up to the task.

The problem is, this is all a bit too much to take. The credibility of these emotions have to be questioned, and few adequate answers are given. The ending tries in vain to tie it all up, but the result is too difficult to believe. To make such a non-linear film is a major risk, and you need a strong foundation to support it. Unlike most films, this one could have stood to be longer, to allow the story to organically end.

All things being said, it was still better than the Sixth Sense ending. Unfortunately, it doesn't compare to the earlier work of Reiner.

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The Story of Us (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan