History will show that the ‘War of the Roses’ (1989 – 1989) was a brief and largely bloodless affair, though ended no less heated or bitter despite the extremely low body count. In fact it may be the smallest and inappropriately named ‘war’ in recorded history, more pointless even that the so called ‘Cola wars’.
That said, most films are happy to show the ‘meeting cute, ‘getting together’, ‘overcoming of differences’ and ‘finding the sort of bliss you normal run of the mill muppets in the audience will never understand, what with your shitty jobs, whiny kids, unpaid bills, and… YES I SAID I’LL TAKE THE RUBBISH OUT! AND I WILL WHEN I’M GOOD AND FUCKING READY!
Now where were we? Oh yes; most rom-coms stick with the good stuff. Not many show the slow, inexorable descent into fractured marriage hell that beset approximately 50% of marriages.
This one does. Are we better for it? Yes and no. War of the Roses is less a cautionary tale than a version of extremes. It COULD happen, but come on…
After a chapter or two that shows the erection of a perfect family, the last hour of the film deals with the more… dysfunctional… *Ahem* flaccid stage in the relationship between Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner), a formerly high flying couple with two kids and a lovely home.
Funnily enough it is not the kids that bother the feuding couple as much as the home. Once it is evident that it is the prize, the trophy to be argued over, neither Oliver nor Barbara wants to leave it, despite the fact that neither wants to be within a million miles of the other.
Well that’s half right. Oliver wants to reassemble the fractured pieces and resurrect what was once bright and shiny. He sources the legal advice and assistance of a smarmy high priced lawyer (Danny DeVito), a man who – initially – is willing to help in any way he can.
Now anyone who has been married for long enough for the ink on the marriage certificate to dry knows that the honeymoon quite literally does not go on forever. And it seems that after twenty years of putting up with foibles, flaws and fallibilities, that these two are beyond ‘playing nice’, even once it becomes evident that this cannot end well. This film becomes the cinematic embodiment of the meme ‘Well that escalated quickly’, with the warring Roses using every trick and needling every sore point and embarrassing weak spot gleaned over two decades.
Never make a woman mad. Especially though if she owns a monster truck.
For a film a quarter century old The War of the Roses has actually aged quite well, though it makes at a glacial pace compared to today’s comedies, even those half as funny. It is another case though of the trailer having the best laughs – but the fact is that it is probably just as easy to find the movie as it is the trailer – so you might as well watch that.
They say love is never having to say you’re sorry. Well divorce is apparently refusing to say ‘I yield’.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. A very watchable, if not world changing, 80s comedy with a top notch cast and enough laughs to justify your time. (Pre-nup kids…)