The Story of Us, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer and directed by Rob Reiner, is the latest Hollywood cookie from the men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus cutter. It received mixed reviews, quickly tanked at the box office, and wasn't even released on video in time for Valentine's Day. That's unfortunate, because The Story of Us, despite its R rating, contains some wonderful lessons.Ben and Katie Jordan have hit a 15-year slump in their relationship. When Katie walks in on Ben as he is spilling secrets about his marriage to a strange woman, she accuses him of having an affair. We were just talking, Ben protests. But to Katie, talking to another woman about the intimate problems in one's marriage is as much a betrayal as a one-night stand.

Over lunch, Katie and her two girlfriends gossip about marital infidelity. Across town, Ben is eating with two buddies. His agent (played by Mad About You's Paul Reiser) gushes with adolescent excitement about his cybersex partner: his fling with her, he insists, is not adultery, but harmless play. Society needs to loosen up. "The Ten Commandments were easier to stick to when you dropped dead at 35," he says.

But The Story of Us should not be dismissed out of hand. For all its oversimplifications of male-female differences, it comes closer than most Hollywood pap to a realistic view of the enormous self-sacrifice and commensurate value of marriage.Katie and Ben were happy once. They met when she was a secretary in his office, and both were carefree and fun. But over the years Ben has stayed carefree (read irresponsible), and Katie has become a neurotic stick-in-the-mud. And now they find themselves caught in a morass, having the same fight over and over. They've tried everything, including counseling and a romantic trip to Europe, but their marriage has deteriorated to the point that they can't even make small talk at dinner.

In June they drop the kids off at summer camp, and on the drive back home Ben says, heartbreakingly, "Isn't this the moment where we say. … 'All couples go through this. We love each other. Let's give it another ...

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