Story of Us [1999]

Director Rob Reiner's When Harry Met Sally... was about a relationship beginning; The Story of Us is about a relationship possibly coming to an end. Bruce Willis plays a comedy writer who chafes at what he sees as his wife's lack of spontaneity; Michelle Pfeiffer, who creates crossword puzzles, stews over what she sees as her husband's irresponsibility. The arc of their separation is interspliced with glimpses and scenes from their marriage--a combination of high points (the proposal, the births of their two children), low points (screaming fights), and the in-between (sessions with marriage counselors, moments in bed staring at the TV). Reiner indicates the passage of time by Willis and Pfeiffer's various hairstyles, and they occasionally let their hair act for them, but at other points their performances are sincere and deeply felt. The sheer power of the themes--the inevitability of conflict in a relationship, the necessity and difficulty of growth--give the movie a degree of emotional force, and there's no doubt that everyone who's gone through a difficult period in their marriage (which is just about every married couple) will find something to connect with. However, there isn't a lot of chemistry between the two leads. In one sequence Willis and Pfeiffer go to Venice to rekindle their old spark and find themselves hounded by another couple, the Kirbys from Cleveland, who are loud, crass, boring, and oblivious. Nonetheless, the Kirbys have a buoyancy that the glossy and elegant stars never quite manage; if The Story of Us had been the story of them, it might have been a better story to watch. --Bret Fetzer

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