Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The War of the Roses


I sure wish Danny DeVito directed more movies. His ultra-black sense of humor and mine mesh perfectly. I adored Throw Momma From the Train. Not everyone liked Death to Smoochy, but I did. And his performances in movies like {Ruthless People}} are among the best comedy roles ever. And this is his masterpiece. I’m happy to say that it was also wildly successful. But he had some flops, too, so maybe that’s why he doesn’t direct too often.

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner meet cute and have a storybook romance … until they suddenly don’t anymore. Despite the two kids, the dog and the cat, his highly lucrative law practice, and their showplace of a house, she realizes one day that she doesn’t love him anymore. She seeks a divorce. They are going along okay in that unpleasant task, when the subject of the house comes up. She wants it, with all its contents. She found it, she devoted years of her life to making it perfect. He wants it, too, probably just to spite her, but he points out that it was his money that paid for it. So they go to war. Literally.

It starts out gradually with a really, really bad idea. He moves back in and draws up a plan where she gets some areas, he gets others, and they share the kitchen. But before long it escalates, until … well, in case you haven’t seen it I won’t reveal the amazing ending. I will only say that DeVito had every chance in the world to end it in the conventional way, with the two reconciling and moving on with the lives, but he didn’t take it. Hooray! The fact is, the only time he chickened out a little was when she served him some pâté on crackers, and then hinted that she had made it with meat from his dog. That might have been too much for audiences (even though he ran over her cat earlier, though it was accidental), so he showed the dog alive for about half a second. Other than that, it’s uncompromising. The scene where she drives over his prized Morgan sports car with her monster truck had me rolling on the floor with laughter.

The narrative is framed as a story being told by DeVito, as Douglas’s lawyer, to a client who is seeking a divorce in the hope that he can convince the man to reconcile in some way instead of following the Rose’s horrible example. He is wonderful, as usual, as are both leads. He is also fabulous as a director, using camera angles and extreme close-ups to create comic tension in a swell homage to Hitchcock. As the situation in the house deteriorates, as it looks more and more like a bomb has gone off, it all gets very spooky and distorted. This is one of my favorite comedies of all time.