The Good: Moments of humor, Capable acting, Narrative technique, Moments of writing, Eric Clapton's music
The Bad: Near-constant yelling, Characters, Resolution, Advertising
The Basics: A fair attempt to show how relationships disintegrate over time with children and age, The Story Of Us flops in its loud, angry and ultimately un-entertaining execution.
The Story Of Us is an inconsistent film, perhaps that's the point of it, perhaps that's why opinions on it are so polarized. I think it's appropriate that the overall rating for this film, after 180+ reviews, is three stars. It has a "like it or hate it" feel to it. Right off the bat, it's getting more points from me solely because I laughed at it more than I laughed during Meet the Parents; I couldn't bear giving it the same low rating as that film.
The Story Of Us is about Katie and Ben Jordan, married for fifteen years, two children. In their fifteenth year of marriage, they find themselves fighting more often, sexually and emotionally distant and basically spending the summer while the children are away separated. In the process, they reminisce and progress. While they go on, Ben moves out, the kids remain ignorant of their difficulties, Katie takes a cooking class and life progresses.
In the process, there is much yelling.
There's a LOT of yelling. Ben and Katie yell, scream, holler and roar at one another. They're loud. I swear, they must have shot the final scene first because I can't imagine with all of the screaming, they wouldn't be completely hoarse by the end of the film. The problem is, it's annoying. We GET that the characters are frustrated. We understand that. But it seems the vast majority of the film is the two main characters screaming at each other. While this might appeal to older people going through this sort of thing (or not), it definitely doesn't appeal to younger people, especially those who went through it in their own childhoods. That's why this film won't endure; the younger generation lived listening to their parents openly fight like Ben and Katie do. Why watch a film of it?
The only respite comes in the restaurant. Scenes are interspersed with Ben and Katie at a restaurant with friends. Here, the film's writers try to make broader statements about men and women. For the most part, they are good. They show insight, they're funny. In these scenes, Rob Reiner, Rita Wilson and (the uncredited) Paul Reiser shine. Reiser is a scene stealer in each of his scenes, Reiner is funny and his lines are perfectly executed. It seems Wilson got the job of making all of the broad statements on females. She's good.
I liked the narrative technique; the jumping from past to present and back. Unfortunately, it culminates in an epiphany. It's a fine epiphany, I suppose. The problem I have with it is that it is that very moment that they choose to show in the previews. That is, the preview sells you on a movie filled with the 15 years it took Ben and Katie to grow apart. Instead, you're stuck with the end of it and all of the cool images come in the last five minutes.
Okay, a moment ago, I said the epiphany was "fine," I'd like to take that back now. In any other movie, with probably any other couple, the epiphany would be fine. In The Story Of Us, it isn't. It doesn't fit. The film sets up for ninety minutes how Ben and Katie have fallen out of love. It establishes perfectly why they won't be trying again. Thus, the epiphany and resulting decision seems to be out of place. It doesn't fit. It's as if at the last minute, a happy Hollywood ending was tacked on. The truth is, it doesn't fit the characters and it doesn't fit the film.
The end ruins an already shaky film. The only things that kept me watching were the moments of humor and the music. Strung throughout the film is a wonderful song Eric Clapton is singing that fits the film perfectly.
All in all, The Story Of Us is about two people who have children, who ruin their marriage and cause them to fall out of love and hate each other until the last possible moment when they decide to go out for Chinese food. There are better examples of films about the disintegration of love and relationships and as soon as I see one, I'll be sure to cite it so you watch it instead of this!
For other dramas about families, please check out my reviews of:
Once And Again Season Two
Parenthood Season One
For other movie reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.