|Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer in "The Story of Us." Photo by Ralph Nelson, Universal. Click on the image to see a larger version that includes cast members Red Buttons, Betty White, Willis, Pfeiffer, Jayne Meadows and Tom Poston.|
"The Story of Us"
Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
Hollywood is a town built on ego. The stars, the producers, the directors, the studio execs all have heads so swelled they won't fit into ordinary cars - that's why they take limos everywhere. Hell, even the bicycle couriers got 'tude.
Isn't it funny, then, that with all that excess of self-worth, nobody will break Hollywood's critical commandment: Thou Shalt End Happily (unless Thou Art Remaking Shakespeare).
Sometimes, that formula gets in the way of a good movie.
Like so many Rob Reiner films ("When Harry Met Sally" most notably), both characters are likeable, to keep us interested, but flawed enough to be just like the people who surround us in Real Life.
Although the focus here is on Willis, Pfeiffer's character seemed more sympathetic to me. Thrust into the role of disciplinarian, pragmatist and organizer, Pfeiffer hates what she's become (i.e. her own mother), but feels powerless to escape her situation. She takes out her rage on her husband, whom she blames for not lifting her burdens, or at least sharing them.
For his part, he is bewildered by her behavior and is unable to sympathize, yearning for the happy-go-lucky woman he married.
Neither one is able to see the other's viewpoint, and therein lies their problem.
Willis follows an Oscar-caliber performance in "The Sixth Sense" with an outstanding effort here, his best romantic comedy work since his "Moonlighting" days. While Academy members may not yet be ready to dance with Willis just yet, they're bound to view him with a little more open-mindedness and not just as Mr. Demi Moore, a label which hounded him when he was unable to match the success of the "Die Hard" film series.
Oscar is bound to notice Rita Wilson, however. As Pfeiffer's best friend (and wife to Willis' best friend), she positively dominates the screen every time she's on it. She is, as Da Queen put it, just like every woman's best friend in real life. That is to say, brassy, catty, vulgar and supportive.
It was no accident that every woman in the audience was howling at Wilson's jokes, while the men squirmed and scratched their receding hairlines perplexedly.
Another statue may soon be taking up space on the Hanks mantlepiece, and it won't necessarily be one won by Tom.
That Pfeiffer and Willis were both dealing with the breakup of their real-life relationships while "The Story Of Us" was filming undoubtedly gave both actors an additional wellspring of emotion from which to draw. A profound scene near the end of the movie, when Willis at last sees himself through his wife's eyes, couldn't help but get one wondering if he was thinking of Demi at that moment.
My biggest gripe with this movie is the denouement, which is forced and happens in such an unbelievable and predictable manner that it leaves you spitting out "Hollywood!" in a scornful tone at your empty popcorn bucket as you exit the multiplex. We spend two hours exploring why the marriage is breaking up, but we never really understand what puts it back together again.
Pfeiffer and Willis are appealing, but it's the realism of their characters that make this movie satisfying, until it's shattered in the final reel. I still recommend it strongly, based on the performances and the depiction of a relationship that is not unlike those of friends and family. Not a bad date movie for a couple going through a bad patch.
In the theater or on video?