The War of the Roses | Chicago Reader

The War of the Roses

Danny DeVito's second feature (1989), a marked improvement over Throw Momma From the Train, focuses with dark humor on the ferocious war between a divorcing couple (Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas), with DeVito himself playing a family friend and lawyer who narrates the tale in flashback to a prospective client. Adapted by Michael Leeson from Warren Adler's novel, and aided by a first-rate production staff (including producers James L. Brooks and Arnon Milchan and executive producer Polly Platt), this is a compellingly watchable, suspenseful, and often funny treatment of a grim subject—the hatred that can build up in a long-term marriage—that also becomes an indirect commentary on yuppie materialism. (The principal point of contention in the battle is the couple's house, and their principal weapons against each other are its furnishings and other cherished possessions.) Overall, the film's grasp of this painful subject tends to be wise and understanding rather than cynical. Apart from a single cutaway shot to the family dog at a crucial juncture, it is also uncompromising in its relentlessness and extremely well told as a story. DeVito's taste for unorthodox camera angles and striking camera movements occasionally verges on overreaching but for the most part admirably serves the action.

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