The Story of Us

on October 15, 1999 by Annlee Ellingson
   When commercials for "The Story of Us" started playing on TV, a friend, who shall rename nameless but harbors an ardent affection for Ms. Michelle Pfeiffer, announced to anyone who would listen that he was going to the preview screening no matter when or where it was. If he had to take the day off from work, so be it. "It's going to be awesome," he declared.
   Playing the role of devil's advocate, I asked, "What if it isn't?" recalling quite clearly that this friend tends to over-anticipate the quality of films, inevitably experiencing disappointment when reality sets in.
   "A romantic comedy by Rob Reiner starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer? How could it not be awesome?" he admonished.
   So we settled into our seats at the critics' screening (I like going to movies with this particular friend because he insists on getting popcorn) and prepared to be amazed by this story about a couple who, after 15 years of marriage, decide to call it quits while their kids are away at summer camp.
   After the film, my friend was, as predicted, less than thrilled. "I didn't like any of the supporting characters," he complained. (Not very descriptive, I know, but that's probably why he's not writing this and I am.)
   "Yeah, Rob Reiner and Rita Wilson's characters seemed to just be caricatures inserted for comic relief," I agreed. "I thought Paul Reiser was funny, though. Maybe because I never pictured him as such a horn dog."
   "If I were him, I would have just told her to shove off," he said. (Obviously, my friend didn't really say, "Shove off," but you get the picture.)
   "You would have told Michelle Pfeiffer to shove off?"
   "If I were Bruce Willis, I would have. I wouldn't take that stuff from her." (Again, we all know that he didn't say "stuff.")
   "I do think the film inadvertently made the couple's problems look like they were all her fault. I mean, Bruce was just this happy-go-lucky guy who entertained the kids while she'd spaz out because they got stuck behind a slow-moving truck in traffic. He was a hell of a lot more fun, and she's the one who started the fights all the time. He's the one who kept trying to make things work while she was off making Thai food with some old family friend. And who cares if he doesn't keep the windshield washer fluid full? That's a pretty petty thing to tear a marriage apart."
   "The whole thing was a set-up from the beginning," my friend continued on his insightful diatribe. "Like we didn't know Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer would get back together in the end."
   "Well, that's obvious, and I'm not sure that Michelle's hilariously emotional speech at the end sufficiently indicated that the two of them could, indeed, get past what they've been fighting about just because Bruce did the Riverdance to make the kids laugh. It was a good try, though.
   "I thought it was hilarious when Bruce and Michelle kept trying to literally put on happy faces for their kids when they secretly despised each other. But it did seem like most of the flashbacks were to the hard times the couple had, not the funny ones. I liked how Rob Reiner balanced brisk montages of the couple's 15-year-plus history with pauses at the significant moments that marked their marriage's dissolution. And I liked Eric Clapton's catchy score [at which point I began doo-doo-dooing the theme, much to my friend's annoyance.]"
   "I thought it'd be funnier," came his succinct retort. And that's the story of us.    Starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson. Produced by Rob Reiner, Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson. A Universal release. Romantic comedy. Running time: 94 min.
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