Loretta Castorini, a book keeper from Brooklyn, New York, finds herself in a difficult situation when she falls for the brother of the man she agreed to marry (the best friend of her late husband who died seven years previously).
Two jilted lovers spend fifteen years of marriage together, only to find that they might no longer love each other. In this time they have two children and go through the various (dramatic and comical) events that take place in an average marriage. Written by
Brian Levin <COMICY@aol.com>
Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer make the perfect romantic couple, but the story is a mess. **1/2 out of ****
THE STORY OF US (1999) **1/2
Starring: Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, and Paul Reiser Director: Rob Reiner Running Time: 95 minutes Rated R (for language, thematic elements, and sex-related material)
By Blake French:
Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer make the perfect romantic couple; they're cute, cuddly and warm. Their smiles and joyful expressions make one wonder why no other casting director has come up with the idea of having the two of them star in a romantic comedy before. Unfortunately, Rob Reiner's "The Story of Us," isn't about marriage, love at first sight, or happy times, but about an unhappy couple's divorce procedures and how two people can fall out of love in a matter of time.
How depressing, indeed. The film consists of dozens of unorganized flashbacks explaining to us the up's and many down's of a married life in America, as well as the two past love birds, Ben and Katie Jordan's, attempts to keep their marital problems from their two young children.
The individual scenes featuring Ben and Katie either bonding or fighting are at times quite powerful and involving, as well as some emotionally on target moments along with some funny humor present--but all the good sequences are brief and chopped-up. The story is so uneven it's very hard to become intrigued with anything going on. There is a nice sequence that takes place in Italy where Ben and Katie try to escape from their problems and jump start their love--what they don't realize is that their good old selves will be waiting on the front porch when they return home. The problem with the film's singular scenes being effective is that they do not all fit together like they should, not to mention the heartache to develop and introduce the main characters through the flashbacks. That is not an easy thing to do, and "The Story of Us" is not a smart enough movie to figure out how to do those things properly.
The characters are acutely quite the treat. They are wonderfully played by top notch actors, some not commonly known for such roles as these, including Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, and even "Mad About You's" Paul Reiser. There's much charming romantic chemistry between Willis and Pfeiffer, but like I said, all the characters do is argue and swear at the other. The kids aren't detailed enough to care about, thus we don't care about the turning point in the middle of the film. Pfeiffer's performance at the very end of the movie, where it should be serious and intense, comes off as whiny, sissified, and annoying. I can't figure out how she screwed this one up. She's a good actress, right?
The structure in "The Story of Us," is anything but ordinary. Author Thomas Pope once said that there is such a justification in the extremely rare case of a movie being about life: the structure called life. There are certain incidences here that have a first act, second act, then conclusion, but no outright formula. But in this rare exception, the structure's material is fitting. Life has no structure to it, and for this movie to contain such realism, it must also not. This makes the story believable, engaging, and realistic; this reminds me of what many couples go through in present day in America.
"The Story of Us," contains such a flawed motive it's hard to imagine how this project could have worked. While I won't reveal the film's ending, I will say that the filmmakers throw their preparation for a depressing finale out the window and give us a conventional, but satisfying, conclusion. Perhaps if the writers would have used the flashbacks in sequence order, or taken a completely different view at the events, maybe through the eyes of the kids, possibly then the movie would have been a success. It is hard to tell, really. I personally think this film was doomed before it got the green light. It isn't the actors' faults, nor necessarily the director, Rob Reiner. It's just everything combined in a negative way.
There is a scene in "The Story of Us" where the meaning of the message in this movie flashes before our eyes. It is a sequence present in the film's trailers, and is made up of Katie's brief, intercut flashbacks reflecting back on all the good and bad times of the their 15 year marriage. The scene works in every way possible. And in some ways, it makes a long story short for us, summing up the entire film's existence. I don't know why this scene is so effective, but I do know one thing: if the entire movie was as focused and meaningful as that, we may have had something here.
Brought to you by Universal Pictures.
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