The War of the Roses (film)
|The War of the Roses|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny DeVito|
|Produced by||James L. Brooks|
|Screenplay by||Michael J. Leeson|
|Based on||The War of the Roses |
by Warren Adler
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||Stephen H. Burum|
|Edited by||Lynzee Klingman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$160.2 million|
The War of the Roses is a 1989 American dark comedy film based upon the 1981 novel of the same name by Warren Adler. The film follows a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage; when their marriage begins to fall apart, material possessions become the center of an outrageous and bitter divorce battle.
The film co-stars Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito; the three actors had previously worked together in Romancing the Stone and its sequel The Jewel of the Nile. DeVito directed the film, which also had producer James L. Brooks and actor Dan Castellaneta working on a project outside of The Simpsons. The opening title sequence was created by Saul Bass and Elaine Makatura Bass.
In both the novel and the film, the married couple's family name is Rose, and the title is an allusion to the battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster (English Civil War) during the Late Middle Ages.
Lawyer Gavin d'Amato is in his office discussing a divorce case with a taciturn client. Noticing the man's determination to divorce his wife, Gavin decides to tell him the story of one of his clients, a personal friend of his.
Eighteen years earlier, Oliver Rose, a student at Harvard Law School, meets Barbara at an auction on Nantucket, where they bid on the same antique. Oliver chats Barbara up and they become friends; when Barbara misses her ferry home, the two end up spending the night together. Eventually, the two marry and have two children and settle in Washington D.C. Over the years, the Roses grow richer, and Barbara finds an old mansion whose owner has recently died, and purchases it. However, cracks seem to be forming in the family, such as the children being overweight due to Barbara spoiling them with treats; as Oliver becomes a successful partner in his law firm, Barbara, who was a doting and loving wife early in the marriage, appears to grow restless in her life with Oliver, and begins to dislike him immensely.
Oliver, for his part, cannot understand what he has done to earn Barbara's contempt, oblivious to his controlling, self-centered, indifferent and generally dismissive behavior toward her; when Oliver believes he is suffering a heart attack the day after an argument, Barbara does not show any remorse or concern for his well-being, and ultimately admits that she no longer loves him and wants a divorce. Oliver accepts, but tension arises between the two during a meeting with Barbara's lawyer when Barbara makes it clear that she wants the house and everything in it, even using Oliver's final love note to her (which he had written in the hospital) as leverage against him in their legal battle. Oliver hires Gavin on a retainer as his legal counsel. Barbara initially throws Oliver out of the house, but he moves back in after discovering a legal loophole that allows him to stay while the outcome of the divorce is pending; as a result, Barbara immediately begins plotting to remove Oliver herself, even going as far as trying to seduce Gavin into siding with her instead.
In an effort to compromise, Oliver offers his wife a considerable sum of cash in exchange for the house, but Barbara still refuses to settle. Realizing that his client is in a no-win situation, Gavin advises Oliver to end the conflict by leaving Barbara with the house and starting a new life for himself. Oliver responds by firing Gavin and decides to take matters into his own hands.
At this point, Oliver and Barbara begin spiting and humiliating each other in every way possible, even in front of friends and potential business clients. Both begin destroying the house furnishings; the stove, furniture, Staffordshire ornaments, and dishware. In addition, Oliver accidentally runs over Barbara's cat in the driveway; when Barbara finds out, she retaliates by trapping Oliver inside his private sauna, where he nearly succumbs to heatstroke and dehydration.
While the children are away at college, Oliver eventually calms down and attempts to make peace with Barbara over an elegant dinner, but finally reaches his breaking point when Barbara serves him a paté which she implies was made from his dog (which turns out to be a bluff). Oliver physically attacks Barbara, who flees into the attic. Oliver boards up the house to prevent Barbara from escaping, while Barbara loosens the chandelier to drop on Oliver; when their German housekeeper Susan pays them an unexpected visit during the night, she senses something is terribly wrong and discreetly contacts Gavin for help. By the time Gavin arrives, Oliver and Barbara's quarrel has culminated in the two hanging dangerously from the insecure chandelier. During this time, Oliver admits to Barbara that despite their hardships, he always loved her, but Barbara does not respond. Before Gavin can come inside with a ladder, the chandelier's support cable fails, leaving only the electrical wiring to the fuse box supporting the couple and the chandelier. Despite Oliver's conviction that each wire can hold 'at least two hundred pounds', the wire eventually fails as well, sending Oliver, Barbara, and the chandelier crashing violently to the floor. In his final breaths, Oliver reaches out to touch Barbara's shoulder, but Barbara uses her last ounce of strength to push his hand away, firmly asserting her hatred for him even in death.
Finishing his story, Gavin presents his client with two options: either proceed with the divorce and face a horrific bloodbath in court, or go home to his wife to settle their differences properly; the client chooses the latter, and Gavin, satisfied, packs up his office to go home to his own family.
- Michael Douglas as Oliver Rose
- Kathleen Turner as Barbara Rose
- Danny DeVito as Gavin D'Amato
- Marianne Sägebrecht as Susan
- Dan Castellaneta as Gavin's client
- Sean Astin as 17-year-old Josh Rose
- Trenton Teigen as 10-year-old Josh Rose
- Heather Fairfield as 17-year-old Carolyn Rose
- G.D. Spradlin as Harry Thurmont
- Peter Donat as Jason Larrabee
- David Wohl as Dr. Gordon
- Shirley Mitchell as Mrs. Dewitt
The premiere of The War of the Roses took place in Los Angeles on December 4 and in New York at the Gotham Theatre on December 6, 1989, it was released in the United States on December 8, 1989, by 20th Century Fox.
The War of the Roses was released in the U.S. on DVD Special Edition on December 18, 2001. Released by 20th Century Fox, the film is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen format; and features director commentary with Danny DeVito, deleted scenes, computer sketches, storyboards, still galleries, 4 theatrical trailers, and 6 TV advertisements. A Blu-ray Filmmakers ‘Signature Series’ released on September 18, 2012 ports over old bonus features and adds new featurette interviews in HD about revisiting the film and its musical score. A Blu-ray was released by Fox in the United Kingdom in January 2013 with the same extra features.
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Upon its release, the film was a success with critics and a box office hit, bringing in $83.7 million domestically in U.S. box office receipts, and $160,188,546 worldwide.
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2019)
The film maintains an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 39 reviews, with an average rating of 8.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "The War of the Roses is a black comedy made even funnier by hanging onto its caustic convictions -- and further distinguished by Danny DeVito's stylish direction."
Awards and nominations
|BAFTA Award||Best Adapted Screenplay||Michael J. Leeson||Nominated|
|Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear||Best Director||Danny DeVito||Nominated|
|Golden Globe Award||Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy||James L. Brooks||Nominated|
|Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Michael Douglas||Nominated|
|Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy||Kathleen Turner||Nominated|
In German-speaking regions, since the film's release, the word Rosenkrieg (meaning "Roses war", or less literally, "War of the Roses") has come to denote such a bitter fight for material possessions, as depicted in the film (and often also for custody of the children) with most speakers completely unaware of the word's origins.
- "THE WAR OF THE ROSES (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 4, 1990. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
- The War of the Roses at Box Office Mojo
- Premiere of "The War of the Roses" | NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 6: (L-R) Michael Douglas, Danny DeVito, Kathleen Turner and James L. Brooks attend the premiere of "The War of the Roses" on December 6, 1989 at the Gotham Theater in New York City.
- The War of the Roses - AFI | Catalog - American Film Institute
- The War of the Roses | DVD | United States | Special Edition | 20th Century Fox | 1989 | 116 min | Rated R | Dec 18, 2001
- The War of the Roses Blu-ray | United States | Filmmakers Signature Series | 20th Century Fox | 1989 | 116 min | Rated R | September 18, 2012
- The War of the Roses Blu-ray | United Kingdom | 20th Century Fox | 1989 | 116 min | Rated BBFC: 15 | January 28, 2013
- The War of the Roses at Rotten Tomatoes
- "Berlinale: 1990 Programme". berlinale.de. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
- Duden (German)