In Rob Reiner’s The Story of Us, scripted by Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson, Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer play a married couple, with two preteen kids, who agree to a trial separation on the heels of their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Most of the movie is taken up with flashbacks and flash-forwards about what went right, what went wrong; there’s lots of talking directly into the camera, lots of smiling through tears and cuddling and gnashing.
Willis plays a writer who wants his wife to be the sprite she was when he married her; Pfeiffer, a crossword-puzzle designer, wants everything neatly in place. He accuses her of lacking spontaneity, and the same charge could be leveled against this exhaustingly schematic hunk of sitcom blubberiness. The relationship between Willis and Pfeiffer is so tricked-up and fractured that we often have trouble figuring out where we are – not to mention what the “issues” are. By showing us only the high and low points of the alliance, the filmmakers seem to be concocting a greatest-hits album of marital-movie clichés, dragging down their stars in the process. The mating dance between men and women is, of course, presented as a great and ineffable mystery, with everybody in the movie offering up his or her cosmic 2 cents. For a film that proudly proclaims “there are no answers,” it’s awfully smug about knowing all the questions.