The Story of Us (1999)

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Released 30-Aug-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romantic Comedy Audio Commentary-Rob Reiner (Director)
Featurette-Stories Behind Story Of Us
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 91:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (40:49) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rob Reiner
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Bruce Willis
Michelle Pfeiffer
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Eric Clapton
Marc Shaiman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Arabic
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Story of Us is a story that millions of couples live every day. Ben Jordan (Bruce Willis) and wife Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) no longer have the perfect marriage. Forced into a trial separation by the stresses of their relationship, they recall the highs and lows that represent their 15-year shared history. Perhaps the key to their future is buried in those memories, or maybe the canyon between them is now too wide to cross. The Story of Us explores Ben and Katie's attempts to bridge this gap and somehow rediscover the love that brought them together.

    As Rob Reiner says in the documentary, a movie that focusses squarely on the dynamics of such a crisis has never been made before, despite being familiar to us all. Writers Alan Zweibel and Jessie Nelson capture the essential elements of martial conflict, while also flavouring the story and characters with enough individuality to make them interesting. Furthermore, friendly advice/comic relief supplied by the likes of Paul Reiser, Rita Wilson (Mrs Tom Hanks) and Reiner himself lightens a load that gets pretty heavy at times.

    Casting A-list actors to play this frustrated every-couple would seem to defeat the whole exercise. I was certainly sceptical. As it happens, their on-screen chemistry, together with the solid dialogue and Rob Reiner's experience as a director, prevents The Story of Us from being an homogenized, movie producer's version of married life. While the plot holds few surprises, the charismatic stars embrace their roles and give genuine, heart-felt performances, although it seems unlikely that even one of their children would have brown eyes, let alone two. Last minute casting switch?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Framed at 1.78:1, The Story of Us boasts a rich and colourful 16x9 enhanced transfer that is gorgeous to behold. Only two problems prevent it from being reference quality.

    Generally, the sharpness of this transfer was excellent. At times, however, the image appeared soft, particularly on some of Michelle Pfeiffer's close-ups. This may have been the result of poor focus-pulling, rather than a sly attempt to rescue Ms Pfeiffer's vanity, which I must say is in no danger whatsoever. Rob Reiner alludes to the movie's comparatively low budget, indicating a rushed schedule without the luxury of shooting umpteen takes. Whatever the reason, these focal lapses were exceedingly rare.

    The other problem concerns a handful of over-exposed shots where the white level was too high. The worst example occurs at 45:54, when Katie and Ben visit their kids at camp: the sunlit ground is a ghastly patch of white. Titanic and The Fifth Element suffered a similar problem. Again, this may be a cinematographic issue here.

    Shadow detail was spot on, as was colour saturation. Skin tones were accurate, which is especially important as lots of large, dramatic faces often fill the screen.

    Thanks to a pristine source negative, no scratches or dust mar the image, and film grain is fine enough to be ignored. Compression artefacts and aliasing problems are also absent. With the layer change hidden under a fade-to-black at 40:49, there is nothing left to say about this near-perfect transfer.

    Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and German subtitles are not included on the DVD, contrary to what the packaging says.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is near-perfect, although this is not such a huge feat when only one speaker is utilized for most of the film.

    There is a torrent of dialogue spoken through the centre speaker. In fact, not just spoken, but screamed, growled, whispered, and laughed. All of it is crystal clear, free from distortion, and precisely synchronized.

    The sensitive score by Eric Clapton, recruited by Reiner after receiving a copy of the movie on tape, treads delicately around the characters' personal spaces. Clapton's crisply recorded acoustic guitar spins a fine thread across the front soundstage, but the dynamics stop there.

    As far as the rest of the soundtrack goes, that's about it. The Story of Us basically sounds as good as it needs to. Your rear speakers and subwoofer probably need the rest after The World Is Not Enough and The 13th Warrior.

    Note that the packaging incorrectly promises French and Italian language tracks.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The 16x9 enhanced menu design is quite attractive in a basic, Warner Home Video kind of way.

Featurette-The Stories Behind The Story Of Us (20:40)

    Framed at 4:3 in Dolby Digital 2.0, the 'Spotlight on Location' TV filler The Stories Behind The Story Of Us clocks in at 20:40. Due to its video tape origins, the picture quality is low compared to the main feature; cross-colouration artefacts were rife. As for the content, a lot of ground is covered in 20 minutes. Recorded mid-production, all of the stars, writers, and of course the director, volunteer the usual Press-kit style exposition. Without delving too deep, this documentary is nevertheless an excellent addition to the disc.

    Strangely, this supplement starts with a ten-second montage of scenes from the movie in complete silence.

Audio Commentary - Rob Reiner (Director)

    The juicy details neglected by the documentary are provided by Rob Reiner on the commentary track. Although overly casual, Reiner is still entertaining and informative. At a guess, he speaks for 60% of the track, leading me to believe that the inclusion of the writers or cast members may have helped to fill in the gaps. The fact that we have a commentary at all for a minor release film, especially from the likes of Rob Reiner, is an unexpected bonus.

Theatrical Trailer

    Predictably, the 16x9 enhanced trailer is less vibrant than the feature. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:     Instead of the 27 chapters encoded onto our DVD, the Region 1 DVD reportedly has only 18 chapters.

Summary

    The Story of Us manages to present enough true-to-life drama in its core to avoid being dismissed as tiresome. I appreciated the film more than the critics did (Roger Ebert called it "a sad-sack movie"), but I also agree that the peripheral aspects concerning Ben and Katie's friends are utterly disposable, along with the When Harry Met Sally trappings. The movie could easily survive being cut down by 20 minutes, or have less jarring attempts at comic relief inserted.

    With a first-class transfer spoilt by two minor problems, a serviceable soundtrack, and three welcome extras, the DVD is at the very least worth hiring, if not purchasing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Wednesday, August 16, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDMarantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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