I Will Contrive


Ben and Katie Jordan are wealthy, attractive Californians with dream jobs (novelist and crossword-puzzle designer), a perfectly appointed house, a massive SUV, and two adolescent children who are neither gun-toting psychopaths nor drooling morons. Nobody’s hitting, cursing, or fooling around, and they just took a nice, relaxing vacation in Italy.

Yet in The Story of Us, this is cause for serious complaint: As soon as Ben (Bruce Willis) and Katie (Michelle Pfeiffer) pack their kids off to summer camp, they set about getting a divorce. Why? Ben is carefree, Katie is rigid, and they have trouble listening to each other. In this maudlin, irritating marital drama directed with no particular sensitivity by Rob Reiner, the Jordans have nothing better to do than rehash their 15 years of marriage and numerous attempts at couples therapy—which are all laid out, movie-trailer style,
as sketchy, disjointed flashbacks or deadly
dull exchanges of pause-filled answering-machine messages.

It is possible, of course, that there is more going on here than meets the eye. Perhaps Ben and Katie are being driven insane, as the audience surely will be, by the film’s mellow-mindfuck soundtrack, which reaches a fiendish climax with a reprise of “Classical Gas.” Perhaps they are nauseated by their friends, played by Rob Reiner (obnoxious), Rita Wilson (loud), and Paul Reiser (unctuous), who are not real people but synthetic shtick-delivery systems. Or maybe The Story of Us, like Willis’s most recent film, The Sixth Sense, is a quiet horror movie about seeing dead people—confused, restless spirits who really ought to move the hell on.

**From the funereal to the faux-lively: Imagine Muriel’s Wedding without Abba, and you’ve got a good idea of the trouble with That’s the Way I Like It, an affectionate, subdued gloss on Saturday Night Fever set in late-1970s Singapore, when a certain disco-flavored movie (here called Forever Fever, apparently because the producers could not obtain the rights to the Travolta film) was sweeping the nation. Forever Fever‘s star (Dominic Pace, more Tony Danza than Tony Manero) emerges as a hip-shaking guardian angel to the hero, Hock (Adrian Pang), a twentyish grocery-store employee. (As in the original, the hero’s stuck living at home with a family that doesn’t “get” his newly feathered hairstyle.) Hock is so thrilled by the faux-Travolta’s moves that he secretly enrolls in dance classes. As his Hustle improves he attracts the attention of Julie (the va-voomy Anna Belle Francis, a Singaporean pop star), a sophisticated nightclub fox with a jealous boyfriend.

The situation becomes disco-infernal during a big dance competition, where Hock hopes to win the $5000 first prize. Writer-
director Glen Goei, a London stage actor, ably guides his likable cast through this by-the-numbers story, but he is hobbled by the film’s lifeless soundtrack, which consists mainly of tinny cover versions of the Bee Gees’ throbbing Fever songs. He also makes the mistake of introducing, as a minor counterpoint to Hock’s comic bid for self-expression, the life-and-death ordeal of Hock’s troubled transvestite brother, Richard (Pierre Png), a medical student who’s being crushed by his parents’ ambitions and prejudices. When Richard comes home, dressed in Holly Golightly splendor, to plead for his father’s understanding, his anguish is far more affecting than any dance contest could ever be.