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War of the Roses

Black comedy about an 18-year old marriage gone awry, starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner

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4.5 stars, really. I love black comedies!

  • Dec 8, 2003
  • by
I won't rehash the plot. It's simply a wonderfully observed crumbling of a marriage probably never built on the healthiest of foundations in the first place. One could say that the movie is perhaps an indictment of materialism, where we see Kathleen Turner's character finally turning bitter when she's done all the decorating she can, and Michael Douglas is too busy earning money to care that his wife is feeling empty now. Whose fault is it that the marriage is a shambles? Did Douglas continue to quest for more and more money to make himself feel good about himself and to keep his wife happy...and did she encourage it but continuing to spend, spend, spend? And when the ruins are revealed, it isn't emotional territory, as such, that they fight over, but the material goods that have come to represent emotional attachment for them.

All that may be, but what is so great about the movie is its unrelenting viciousness once the barbs start flying. When Turner tells Douglas she had to pull off to the side of the road when she thought he might be dieing from a heart attack because "she was happy" he might pass away...wow, if that ain't a slap in the face??

It's interesting that Turner is really the hard case in this. Douglas keeps saying that he's still in love with her. He keeps softening towards Turner, and she rebuffs him with her jaw set more and more firmly. Yet, is he really in love with her, or just feels he can "get her back" to put back on his trophy case. He probably doesn't know either...combination of the two, I'd say.

The movie is keenly observed, and the lead performances are flawless,really. Our sympathies bounce back and forth, back and forth all the time. And because we're watching a glossy Hollywood movie, in the back of our minds, we're expecting it all to turn out OKAY. Sure, they say things and do things no human can be forgiven for, but what the heck...it's a movie. I congratulate all involved for having the courage of their convictions. This is a BLACK comedy in all the best ways. The final action Turner takes with Douglas, as they lay side by side, is PERFECT!! I hadn't seen the movie in years until the other day, but many of her comments and actions were burned in my memory. These two actors had such great chemistry. A reteaming, even after all these years, might be fun.

Anyway, my one gripe about the movie is the role of "narrator" that DeVito plays. He's an attorney (and partner of Douglas'), who, in his scenes WITH Douglas, is quite amusing. But he also interjects little comments from time to time as he is retelling the story of the Roses to a prospective client. The tone of these scenes is unconvincing, DeVito does a terrible job of smoking (don't ask), and they add nothing to our appreciation of the "message." Maybe the movie wasn't long enough without these scenes...but I could sure do without them.

By the way,the DVD has a montage of deleted scenes, "hosted" by DeVito. It's worth watching, right through to the end, because DeVito (and his wife, Rhea Pearlman) have a very brief but delightful "scene" at the conclusion.

This is a great movie, and a lost treasure, in many ways, because so few people gave it a try when it came out. It still holds quite true today, I think, and despite the slightly outdated fashions in the film, remains timeless.

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More War of the Roses reviews
review by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
What Pompted You to write a Review?   I had wanted to write a review about this movie since I saw it, but did not have a place I felt I could express myself fully.     How was the Plot, Acting, Direction?   The acting by Douglas and Turner were great.  They showed how a couple could hate each other to the core.  However, with that said, their script did not do a very good job showing how this hatred developed.  It seemed to have come on strong …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Strong performances, but the story line does not quite work.
Quick Tip by . August 30, 2009
The War of the Roses- black comedy- an 18-year marriage gone awry, hilarious/ dark- great performances-Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas
review by . May 30, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
I have heard of this movie before but I had no idea what kind of a ride I was about to be taken on and let me tell you this flick is crazy! Here you have a man and a woman who have a good marriage and suddenly it goes kablam! They are like the ham and cheese cafeteria sandwich cut in half and placed with their backs to each other; the angry lovers on opposite sides of the bed...    Watching Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner slowly descended to a discord in their relationship, …
review by . September 09, 2000
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: The Queen of Black Comedies!     Cons: The fish course is ruined!     This is the movie for die hard fanatics of black comedy! None of that wimping out at the end and leaving you with a happy ending, No Sir!       We follow the lives of this once happy couple from their humble beginnings to their very bitter ends!Plates fly at life threatening speeds! Her big black truck eats his little classic car! She even makes him believe she …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


Danny DeVito directs this black comedy about a long-married couple in the throes of divorce at the height of the materialistic 1980s, and his second feature far surpasses his first effort, THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN, in style, substance, and comedic impact. Barbara and Oliver Rose were the perfect couple--he was a prominent Washington lawyer, she had a wildly successful catering business, they had a great house, great art, great cars and great kids. But when Barbara begins to wonder about life without Oliver, she likes what she sees and sues for divorce; unfortunately, neither of them likes the prospect of life without their opulent home, and war is waged to determine who will keep it. The pair become increasingly outlandish in their battle tactics, moving from cunning to cruel to outright surreal, and DeVito's camera echoes this mood with its unorthodox angles and movement. DeVito himself narrates the action as Oliver Rose's lawyer, and Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas prove once again their chemistr...
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Director: Danny DeVito
Release Date: 1989
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Michael Leeson, Warren Adler
DVD Release Date: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (December 18, 2001)
Runtime: 1hr 56min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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