Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1989
Directed by
Danny DeVito
116 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

War Of The Roses, The

Watching Danny DeVito’s comedy about an acrimonious divorce one can’t help but recall the pugnacious squabbling  of divorcees C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and his former wife (Katharine Hepburn) in The Philadephia Story (1940) or the Hepburn-Tracy classic marital set-to, Adam’s Rib (1949) and note with some regret at how much manners and mores have changed.  It’s not just the absence of a happy ending but our funny bones are tickled now not by good-natured banter but by bitter antipathy and domestic carnage.

As director, DeVito who also appears as a divorce lawyer narrating the story of Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) Rose’s divorce as a cautionary tale to a prospective male client, gives this mainstream comedy a refreshingly unusual  jaundiced tone that by-and-large stays true to the journey from romance to wreckage (there Is only one small cop-out involving dog paté) of the once happy couple who get stuck on the treadmill of middle-class life and progressively lose sight of what brought them together in the first place – to put it bluntly, lust.

Well-scripted by Michael Leeson from a novel by Warren Adler, the film very early on establishes the conjunction between sex and materialism in Oliver and Barbara’s relationship. It scoots through the seventeen years of their marriage before bringing us up-to-date with their current status, he a high status workaholic lawyer, she, a homemaker stretching her wings with a fledgling catering business. The impulse for a divorce comes from her. Happy with the status quo, he rejects the idea but she not only persists, her terms are that she keep the house – the one bought and decorated with his money.

The device of the narration works well here to break the story into a series of hyperbolically escalating stages, both characters softening at times and rapprochement seeming to be in the air, before hostilities resume with greater violence.  Whilst all this is played for laughs beneath it all there is a good measure of insight and as a film about the perils of marriage The War Of The Roses serves as an economical, bitterly funny primer with Douglas and Turner, who hadbeen successfully paired previously in the mid-‘80s adventure romances, Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile (in both of which DeVito co-starred) doing a fine job as a couple who give the words 'til death do us part' a very different meaning.   .




Want something different?

random vintage best worst