The Story of Us

brave face: Katie and Ben (Pfeiffer and Willis) try to act happy while visiting their kids at summer camp.
dir Rob Reiner
scr Alan Zweibel, Jessie Nelson
with Bruce Willis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson, Paul Reiser, Julie Haggerty, Tim Matheson, Colleen Rennison, Jake Sandvig, Jayne Meadows, Tom Poston, Red Buttons, Betty White
Warners 99/US 3 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Taking the measure of a marriage seems to be the goal of this film, and in many ways it's quite effective. The Story of Us is basically a dramatised version of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus as it spans 15 years in a relationship and basically settles on the male-female divide as the defining element. Reiner is back in When Harry Met Sally mode, blending bright and funny comedy with more serious issues of romance and commitment. And the cast isn't half bad either. But it never becomes anything terribly special.

After a decade and a half of marriage, Ben and Katie (Willis and Pfeiffer) are having serious problems, so when their pre-teen kids (Rennison and Sandvig) go off to summer camp, they try separating. This sparks hilarious conversations with their friends (Reiner, Reiser, Wilson, Haggerty), memories both good and bad, and lots of navel gazing as they try to figure out what to do about their apparently failed marriage.

Yes, it's pretty clear what's going to happen from the beginning. But as it progresses there are some excellent sequences that give insight into relational issues, and the performances are all surprisingly good, as are the production values. On the other hand, the script has some real clunkers--painfully obvious scenes and dialog. And by the time we reach the teary finale, it's all just a bit too academic. Quite helpful and insightful in the way it exposes the inner workings of a long-term relationship ... but not a terribly involving movie experience.

[15--themes, language] 31.Mar.00
US release 15.Oct.99; UK release 21.Apr.00

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"I like Willis - always have - and Pfeiffer is a gorgeous doll, so what is not to like? I had seen previews about this movie and I guessed from that how the movie would end. I don't always like to see a movie when I have already guessed the ending, but there was not much else I wanted to see. This is a movie of a marriage and its cycles - ups and downs. Couples create their own history, families their own routines, but sometimes you need to loose what you have in order to appreciate it. We are allowed to see some of the routine in this family, but you can quickly see there are problems - all the little things have added up to big irritations, and neither can stand each other anymore. She is tired of feeling like she is always the grown-up with 3 kids, and he can't understand her point of view. While the kids go to summer camp, they decide to separate, while maintaining the appearance of being together - going up for Parents' Day together, etc. It is a story of a family, not too exciting, no one gets shot. And there is no BIG event. But I liked it, and I think a lot of the audience enjoyed and could identify with the movie. I also liked how it ended. Go see it if you like a movie about ordinary people's lives, and how they learn to appreciate what they have when they nearly loose it." --Laurie T, Minneapolis.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall