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.
Throwing two A-list actors together doesn't guarantee chemistry and, by the end of the movie, you'll be convinced that divorce is the best option for this rather unlikeable couple. It's almost impossible to relate to such insultingly self-indulgent nonsense.