The Story of Us

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Perhaps the fact that I have close friends marrying in a week and as a result, the institution as a whole has been on my mind, affected my judgment; perhaps my innate need to compartmentalize my memories into a photo album not dissimilar to how the screenplay is structured appealed to me. Maybe it’s that I feel I have the characters portrayed by Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer (a surprisingly winning couple) at war within my own psyche – but no matter what the reason, I really enjoyed Story of Us. I also think many people might find it dull or aimless or even simplistic. So I don’t want to carte blanche recommend it to everyone because it might just be me.

That said, Story of Us is an interesting story, spanning 15 years of marriage and never really settling on what time is “the present” – there is a perceived present, where the fate of the relationship hangs in the air, there is an interview style present which one would think would be the start of a clip-show of flashbacks (as implied by the preview), and there are multiple time periods shown to differing degrees of complexity in the film. Personally, I felt that the way the flashbacks were handled in the storyline was very nice, very organic (not like a clip show sitcom – “oh and remember when…”), and quite often, very moving.

You know when you are watching a standard emotional story, maybe a love story, maybe a drama, but one where there is a standard structure of exposition, inciting incident, action, obstacle, action, climax, denouement? And you know how at the obstacle, you have that grinding anxiety in your stomach as you watch them inexorably blow it (hence, the obstacle), the pain, occasionally the urge to cry? The Story of Us is that story moment almost the whole way through – the structure is obstacle interrupted by action which is punctuated by exposition leading up to a not-forgone conclusion. The performance of the climax is lovely, is all I will say. Both our leads perform beautifully (Bruce adding more weight to the hair/acting ratio – the less hair, the better he is) and have great chemistry, happy or angry.

So, anyway, the whole movie you feel like you want to cry – you see glimpses of their earlier life as they remember it, windows to a painless past from a painful room. This is not a bad thing – you are entirely engaged in the characters and the action because of that grinding sensation. I was sucked in and interested (and choosing sides) almost before I even knew who everyone was. A smattering of amusing side characters were nicely, simply drawn, and Rita Wilson in particular was the most real element in a fantasy cast of friends (not unlike as she was in Sleepless in Seattle). Yes, I cried at long last – the long buildup of almost crying was going to end up nowhere else, but it is a release. Willis and Pfeiffer are a nice balance of flaws and amazing traits, irritating habits and sweet honesty. I really dug them as a pair, and the quick snips of their life as I saw it felt truly as if we had missed long, well-established scenes. I wouldn’t recommend this movie to the about-to-be-wed, the commitment-phobic, or people with no empathy – I think anyone else would enjoy the payoff.

And yes, that great song, Classical Gas, from the preview, is in the movie. Soundtrack comes out 11/23.

MPAA Rating R for language and brief sexuality.
Release date 10/15/99
Time in minutes 95
Director Rob Reiner
Studio Universal Pictures