BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The War of the Roses (1989)

How do you get someone who wants to leave to stay, 3.5 readers?

And how do you get someone who wants to stay to go?

BQB here with a review of yet another 1980s movie as my corona movie marathon continues.

The film is narrated by Attorney Gavin d’Amato, played by Danny DeVito.  The story begins with Gavin meeting with a client who is determined to divorce his wife.  Gavin tells the cautionary tale of his old friends, Oliver and Barbara Rose and their petty, destructive and violent divorce that ruined it all.

Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) were young once, and they truly loved each other.  Though largely an incredibly dark comedy, it’s also an epic piece, as Gavin goes back and forth between the recent past as well as the course of twenty years, providing tidbits of the couple’s courtship, marriage, early life, having children and finally, their success that turned to unbridled hatred.

Thus is the crux.  Relationships begin with the tenderest of love and they end with the cruelest of anger.  As time goes on and age closes one door after another, the resentments build.  Unhappy partners begin thinking about what they could have done had they not betrothed themselves to this person who no longer makes them happy.  Each truly believes his/herself to be the wronged party and they seek to get even through the legal system, hoping to take it all and leave the other with nothing.

Both have good cases.  Oliver is the Harvard trained lawyer who made all the money. Barbara is the wife who stood by his side, taking care of home and family, focusing on every little detail so that Oliver could put all of his focus on his career, a career that Barbara never had because she was so busy taking care of him.

Ultimately, “the war” comes down to the couple’s magnificent house.  Oliver paid for it.  Barbara took care of it.

Gavin, Oliver’s co-worker who represents him in the divorce, finds a loophole that states that as long as both parties live separate lives while residing in the same house (i.e. they live in the same house but have little to no contact, like a couple of detached roomates) then neither party can lay claim to push the other out and thus, Oliver can’t be forced out.

Great legal advice but realistically, not so much.  While the first half of the movie drags a bit, the last half of the film where the couple trashes their house to bits all in an effort to hurt each other is where the dark comedy gold lies.  You’ll laugh.  You’ll cry.  You might cry a bit more.

I don’t think I’m giving much away but offering Gavin’s parting words up front.  He advises his client, the one he’d been narrating the story to all along, to be generous to his wife.

Perhaps that’s something we all need to keep in mind.  Again, relationships begin with love and typically, they end in hate.  Indeed, you might have been wronged.  Sometimes when there’s cheating, abuse, alcoholism or what have you, it’s easier to draw that clear cut line where you say that person’s an a-hole and they need to be out of your life for good.  The harder situation is where a couple just grows apart, as the Roses did, and for whatever reason, one spouse just wakes up one day and decides they don’t love the other.

Hard as it is, no amount of revenge can get you back the years you spent on someone that you could have spent on someone else.  Be generous enough to bring the matter to an amicable close, though maybe don’t be a chump and leave yourself homeless and penniless either.

Sidenote: Danny DeVito directs and he did a great job here.  I googled his directing credits and didn’t realize he had directed so much and some big name films like Hoffa, though I think this was the best.

Also fun fact this is the third big 1980s movie starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.  They had also starred together in the Indian Jones-esque Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Moral of the story?  If someone doesn’t want to stay, you should suck it up and let them go.  However, if someone refuses to leave, then you probably should.

PS – Obviously, it’s named after the War of the Roses, the series of battles in old British history waged over the course of many years.  One can assume both sides of countrymen once loved on another, then war broke out.  They fought viciously over turf and destroyed so much that any victory surely rang hollow.  War is a lot like a non-amicable divorce, 3.5 readers.

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3 thoughts on “BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The War of the Roses (1989)

  1. All’s fair in love and divorce?

    • I took his side. I don’t really think he did anything divorce worthy. Movies always portray men who work a lot as villains but I don’t know a lot of unemployed dudes with ladies lined up down the street. But I guess the moral is someone needs to be the bigger person and cave a little before everything’s destroyed.

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