THE STORY OF US
The Story Of Us is mostly a series of flashbacks, a sort of 90-minute
montage of marital strife. Ben and Katie, who have just sent their kids
(Jake Sandvig and Colleen Rennison) to camp, separate for the summer. She
is tired, resentful, and frustrated, and thinks they should call it quits.
He thinks they should try again, but admits that things aren't as much fun
as they were 15 years ago. She feels he is reckless and irresponsible; he
thinks she is a control freak who has lost her spontanaeity. She stays at
home, he moves to a hotel, and they both spend a couple of months alone,
reliving all the bad times...and a few of the good. They have been living
a charade, deceiving the kids into thinking everything's okay, and this
weighs upon them. Years of marital counseling has led only to a collection
of memories involving their various goofy marriage counselors. Well-meaning
advice from their friends (director Reiner, Rita Wilson, Paul Reiser, and
Julie Hagerty), including comments like "marriage is the Jack Kevorkian
of the relationship," usually just deepens their despair.
The very strange tone of this film is reminiscent of director Reiner's
When Harry Met Sally, which couldn't seem to decide whether it was
a deep romance or a character-driven comedy. This may be partially explained
by the unlikely pairing of writers Alan Zweibel (Dragnet) and Jessie
Nelson (Stepmom), who attempt to inject
humor into the glum storyline. But much of this humor misses its mark, and
some actually seems to backfire, making the mood even more depressing than
it is. For instance, there's the obnoxious couple the Jordans meet on a
trip to Italy. Besides the fact that "the Kirbys" are so ridiculously
stereotyped as to derail the credibility of the scene, their purpose is
dubious: The estranged Jordans discover a new common ground in the fact
that they both "hate the Kirbys." How incredibly touching.
This film definitely paints a realistic picture of a crumbling marriage.
Willis and Pfeiffer hit every point on the emotional scale, although some
of the more intense scenes are a little too pushed. Director Reiner has
an inventive way of telling the Jordans' story, skipping back and forth
from the present to various parts of the past, but Pfeiffer and Willis don't
do anything to really show the different stages of their lives except wear
a different wig.
The ending is the film's biggest flaw; it is completely out of sync with the rest of the story. If this couple had really been that unhappy for that long, Katie's tearful speech could not have made much of a difference. Reiner and his scriptwriters give us good reason to see why this couple should break up. They give us no reason to see why they should stay together. ***½
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