Never before has the hyphen in the phrase "comedy-drama" formed such a weak link in a movie. As Ben and Katie Jordan struggle to keep their relationship afloat, The Story Of Us throws the audience from shouty scenes of marital fallout, to straight-to-camera monologues, to what must pass for `the funny bits' - essentially an observational stand-up routine scattered among the cast as a series of one-liners, rather than anything resembling real conversation.
Perhaps Pfeiffer and Willis were seduced by what they thought was the shimmer of Oscar gold glowing between the lines of their set-piece speeches. His tearful scenes are a crying shame, and prove that nothing exists beneath the surface of his trademark impassive style. She works harder, but is prone to over-acting, particularly during an endless final outpouring that's surely the embarrassment of her career.
And director Rob Reiner's got no excuse, either. Right up until the early `90s, he happily skipped between styles, with rock spoof This Is Spinal Tap, coming-of-age drama Stand By Me, fantasy adventure The Princess Bride, romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally and the psychological horror of Misery. Now, however, he's unable to find a workable mix of tones within a single film.
The point of The Story Of Us is that it's not just one event but a whole collection of moments which binds people together. But this doesn't excuse the film's patchy construction. At one stage there might have been a script that contained something of genuine substance, because, like a good boxing movie, it's the fight scenes which ring true. But actor indulgence overwhelms every moment of insight, and so we never get a sense of who these characters are - it's just Bruce and Michelle adding to the `serious' side of their CVs. Less The Story Of Us, more The Story Of Me, Me, Me.