The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses is an explosive portrayal of a 17-year marriage gone wrong. Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) Rose are calling it quits as a couple, but neither wants to give up ownership of their house. Instead of going about an amicable negotiation, they declare all-out war on each other, with alternately hilarious and horrifying results. A no-holds barred look at the ups & downs of why half of all marriages end in divorce. A cautionary tale for persons contemplating divorce. If only the half of couples destined for divorce could see this movie before they got married, it might make them more cautious before jumping into marriage. Not all marriages are happily ever after, and not all divorces end in friendship. From observation, I’ve gathered that divorce is never easy, and this movie exemplifies that. This is a tale of two professional people who at a young age in college fall in love and try to build a future together. The husband studies to become a lawyer and his wife supports him during that time. Later, she decides to become a caterer. Two children, an ideal home and two successful careers. But as they acquire wealth and become comfortable in marriage, they grow apart and begin to loathe each other. This is a dark examination into the slow death of a marriage. The couple decides to divorce. Because neither wants to move out of their dream house, the home becomes a war zone. The Roses begin to battle each other over everything, just to spite the other. Danny DeVito directs and co-stars. DeVito is a divorce lawyer who narrates in flashback the conflicts as they unfold between the divorcing couple, and participates in some of them. De Vito gets the mood just right, the tone constantly on an uncomfortable edge between a mordantly funny comedy and an ugly human conflict. This movie is about how people grow apart, and how love can turn to hate. Barbara seems to truly hate her husband and goes to great lengths to let him know. Both spouses let their rage get the best of them. What’s good about this is that Michael D. and Kathlene T. have a chemistry between them, where they can hate each other, fight, kiss and make up, respect each other, then get a divorce, but miss each other. Well acted and scripted: we believe both the heights of the principals’ love, and the depths of their hatred. This is primarily a study of characters, and a fascinating one too. Anyone who has ever been involved in even a mildly contentious separation will see elements of that here. One might think that Mr. & Mrs. Rose act a little extreme, but that’s what brings the ‘dark’ humor of this movie. Although their actions are over the top, this movie hits the nail on the head with regard to how far people will go when they are hurt and angry. This movie could make someone think twice before making the mistake this couple made of letting things get so out of control. It’s not entertaining to watch two beautiful people take it to the limit destroying everything they built together. Some may say “That is reality.” And it is not beyond reality that anyone as intelligent and capable as these two has behaved this stupidly. The last act of the movie is a great series of set pieces as Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas keep escalating their campaign of dirty tricks against each other. The ending moral finger-wagging given by De Vito’s character is a bit heavy handed – but then this is Hollywood after all. It could have easily been much worse — we could have been fed a happy ending, god forbid. Within the context of America’s 1980s divorce era, in which this film was created, War of the Roses was unique for pulling away from romantic Hollywood endings. The ending is disturbing and does not deliver what the romantics want to see. Yet, that’s part of what makes this film so good. This film offers a darkly comic take on the depressing trend of broken families. Strong (but basically unlikable) performances from Turner and Douglas, who are perfect rivals as the warring Roses. Interestingly, after this movie came out “War of the Roses” came to signify “a bitter fight for material possessions or custody” according to Wikipedia, so it definitely had a social impact. Excellent movie! Exciting, fast paced. I watch this movie over and over and never get tired of it! After seeing this movie again after 20 years I still give it 5-stars. This one I recommend. In my opinion it is a must-see. It’s interesting reading the reviews to this one. It seems to be a loved it or hated it film. In the end, the story is probably undone by its own success: the sense of mutual malice and meanness is very strong, and even overwhelming. Drama 1989 R 116 minutes.


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