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IN SHORT: The audience as marriage therapist... [Rated [R] ]
"Did it make you cry?" asked Bruce Willis of the panel of press folk that you can read in his CrankyCritic® StarTalk. Cranky admits to getting moist, but his internal organs were smashing about like the gears of a meat grinder. Emotions and personal history cloud this review, folks. You are warned. Then again, if you expected some passive statement of facts, well, you must be new around here.
The definition of a good film, at least as far as yours truly is concerned, is one in which the actors create characters which make some kind of connection with the audience. We must believing the situation that we see on the screen. That situation and those characters should kick up some kind of reaction in us. By those simple standards, Rob Reiner's The Story of Us is a success. Then again, if making that connection means stirring up long suppressed memories of a parental disintegration whose viciousness could be measured on the Richter scale, you're going to want to stay the hell away.
The flick drops us dead in the middle of those final weeks Ben and Katie Jordan (Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer), once a happily married couple, must decide whether to make do or call it quits. If the latter, they must also figure out how to tell the kidlets who spend most of the film offscreen at summer camp. Katie, who creates crossword puzzles, lunches with her friends (Rita Wilson and Julie Hagerty). Ben, a writer formerly of teevee sitcoms and now of books, does the same with his (Rob Reiner, whose character is married to Wilson's, and Paul Reiser as his agent). Cranky thanked God for the friends, because they add a much needed stroke of humor to an otherwise serious onscreen emotional meltdown. As do the cameo appearances of Ben and Katie's parents (Betty White and Red Buttons for the happy go lucky Ben; Jayne Meadows and Tom Poston for the everything in it's place Katie)
In the occasional conversations and in lots of quickly edited flashback sequences we see the meeting Ben and Katie, the dating, the good things, the bad things, the kidlet things, the arguments, the school things, the marriage counseling appointments, the arguments, the dinners (at which the High and Low points of the day are discussed) and, of course, the arguments.
Cranky, writing in pain in his theater seat (the bad leg really took to this flick...) wished for two things while watching The Story Of Us. a) He wished he could've yelled back at the screen WOULD YOU TWO IDIOTS START LISTENING TO EACH OTHER???? and b) He wished he could've gotten the hell out of the theater so he could get home before all my own crusty personal stuff came rushing up, leaving me a sobbing roadblock on the floor. Couldn't do neither, 'cuz a) Yelling at the screen is a rude thing to do, and I've kept my mouth shut at flicks far worse than this one -- it's not a bad flick per paragraph one, -- and b) My job is to not walk out, regardless. Fact of the matter is I barely made it to the bus stop. Talk abut literal roadblock...
The script by Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson doesn't mollycoddle the situation. It plays it fairly and matter of fact. Neither part of the Ben and Katie equation is wrong, it's just that the pair don't really try to make things right. They just don't talk with each other. They don't listen to each other. And by the time each has the moment of clearness when they understand what the other was screaming about; toes are already being dipped into the dating pool. By the time you reach the film's resolution, the ongoing negative stuff is just so overwhelming that -- and I'm watching the audience here -- everybody just got up and left.
If you've hit 30 or so and have seen your own or your friends marriages go up in smoke, The Story Of Us is going to resonate loudly. It pays attention to all the small details and, indeed, you get a feeling that many of the events you see "created" for the screen are not that far off from anything any one of us old folk have gone through. That's why it works, be definition. The kind of talk I heard on the way out all reflected the personal emotional crap that all of us 30-plusses have been lugging around like packs on our kidlets backs. (For those that have kids, that is. Those of us that don't, that's an entirely different ocean of emotional stuff.)
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Story Of Us, he would have paid...
it at pay-per-view level (Willis, in his CrankyCritic®
StarTalk called it a date flick, which would be $5) because just
the thought of taking a date to the flick gives me the personal willies.
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