January 27, 2000

The Story Of Us (1999)
Universal Home Video

96 mins. · R
16x9 · 1.85:1

Format
DVD

Audio
E
French

Subtitles
English

Extras
Commentary track, Documentary, Trailers

Starring
Michelle Pfeiffer, Bruce Willis, Rob Reiner, Paul Reiser

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(1999)

The thing I noticed the most, only minutes after I had inserted the DVD of Universal’s upcoming “The Story Of Us” for review, was that the movie was portraying personal relationships and the delicate dance of the personalities in such relationships absolutely faithfully. Not in a long time, maybe not ever, have I seen a film that was so personal as this one. Ever so often you will find references and situations that you can completely identify with, as we all have been in similar situations before. “The Story Of Us” is a romantic comedy of a slightly different sort. Apart from its earnest sincerity, it combines elements of personal drama and conflict with some humor and most importantly with great intimate observations about everyday people.

After 15 years of marriage, Ben (Bruce Willis) and his wife Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) use the time while their two children are at summer camp to find out whether they still love each other or not. They have gone a long way from the uninhibited young people who fell in love with each other to the married couple that is burdened and fed up with the day-by-day routine. While Ben has managed to maintain his free-spirited personality for all this time, it is exactly this trait that now upsets Katie the most. Irresponsible, unreliable and fickle is how she sees her husband.
She on the other hand has changed quite a bit over the years. From the once unbridled Katie she has given in to the grind of daily housework and raising two children. Seemingly inherited from her mother everything in her life goes according to a plan and schedule, an agenda Ben does not comply with. With every day her frustration is growing. The two have come to the lowest point in their marriage. The point, where two people don’t even communicate any longer. In front of the children they kept up their happy faces for so long, but with the kids on vacation, it is time for them to find out where they really stand in life. The two separate for the time of the summer camp and soon they are both engulfed in a flood of memories about their love. They begin the struggle of deciding whether they should end their story, or open a new chapter of their life together.

As I mentioned in my opening, “The Story Of Us” was more intimate than I could ever have imagined. There are so many events and matters that we all are certainly familiar with. Issues that come up in any relationship and especially in marriages, and that get resolved one way or another - or not at all. We all have been in situations where we either felt like Ben or Katie. They are completely real and human characters, and this quality makes “The Story Of Us” a very unique and personal experience.
The film is beautifully acted and the chemistry between Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer is incredible. Not only are both of them giving remarkable performances as real human beings, they are also sad, moving, funny and likable at the same time. They are perfectly cast to show us how people and their perspectives change as they take on the responsibilities of a life together, and even more so as they begin to raise children. Altogether, everything in this movie is just right, to create a memorable experience. From the script, the direction, the production and set design, the acting and the music, it all has sense of cohesiveness that is absolutely convincing.

Universal Home Video has prepared “The Story Of Us” on this DVD in its widescreen presentation, restoring the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The transfer is enhanced for 16x9 television sets and brings this movie beautifully to life in your home theater. Crisp and without defects in the film print, the transfer boasts of detail. Every little bit of picture information has been maintained and transferred to this disc, making this a great looking DVD. The blacks are deep and solid and the colors are strongly rendered with powerful, yet very natural hues and balanced highlights. Fleshtones look absolutely natural at all times and even the strongest colors are delineated without bleeding or over-saturation. The compression on the disc is flawless without artifacts of any kind.

“”The Story Of Us” is one of those releases from Universal that contains a Dolby Digital and a DTS audio track, apart from a French Dolby Surround track. As expected, the audio is well integrated and sounds absolutely natural. Surround usage in this film is limited and the mix uses the surround channels mostly to create a lively atmosphere that gives the viewer the feeling he is right in the action. Subtlety is the operative word here and it works like a charm. The DTS track is identical to the Dolby Digital track and differences between the two are inaudible. Since the movie uses music very sparingly and is also not very heavy on massive sound effects, the Dolby Digital track manages to reproduce every bit of sonic detail as well as the DTS track. Dialogues are well integrated and always understandable.

The film features a music score by Eric “Slowhand” Clapton, and it adds another very personal note to the film. The only music found in the movie is Clapton’s acoustic guitar play with the occasional vocals. Very tastefully written and arranged, I found especially the recording of the guitar impressive, as it leaves every little personal touch intact. Fret noise and breathing, everything is part of the music and in combination with the film and its subject matter, it adds yet another layer of realism and intimacy to the film. Hats off to director Rob Reiner for bringing Clapton on board for this one. He could not have made a better choice.

Although a day and date release, the DVD contains a commentary track by director Rob Reiner, a man of many talents and always a man of good taste. On this commentary track he gives some great insight into the movie, its intentions and how it all came about. Unfortunately Reiner is not the most outgoing person and there are gaps in the commentary in places where he feels he has nothing to add to the pictures and situations in the movie.
The disc also contains a great documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew where they all throw in their own 2 cents about what lessons they learned about relationships in their lifetime. It also highlights of the production aspects of the movie and is a great addition to this release.

Before I watched “The Story Of Us” I did not know exactly what to expect and I came out of this movie deeply impressed. It is a wonderful and very likeable portrayal of a relationship that has come into the years. Masterfully arranged and written, this movie is a true gem that is absolutely inspiring and refreshing. Since Universal gave the film a first class treatment on this DVD, you too should give this disc a try. I am sure that like myself, you will find many very familiar themes and situations. While they make you laugh at some times, they will also make you think at others. Go, get this disc, especially - but not only - if you are married with children...

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