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War of the roses post
The War of the Roses
★☆☆☆☆
First run Seenmorethanonce Theater cinema Tv laptop

Actor-turned-director Danny DeVito (Throw Momma from the Train) reunites his Romancing the Stone co-stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner for this nearly unwatchable assault of shrill performances, vapid writing, and directorial excess. Framed as a cautionary tale told by a divorce lawyer (DeVito) to a prospective client (Dan Castellaneta), The War of the Roses is the story of a couple, Oliver and Barbara Rose (Douglas and Turner) who begin a bitter separation after seventeen years of marriage.

The movie is an unholy blend of broad slapstick and black comedy meant to come across as deep and thought-provoking. DeVito shoots everything like a first-year film student whose been given an unlimited budget and access to every single toy in a studio’s arsenal. Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum (Something Wicked This Way Comes, Body Double, The Untouchables) covers everything in extreme low-angles, elaborate camera moves, and a preposterous number of split diopter shots. I’m sure we’re meant to marvel at DeVito’s confident directorial prowess, but watching this showcase of “style” is exhausting—especially because nothing in the grab bag of cinematic techniques supports the threadbare story unfolding alongside it.

Screenwriter Michael J. Leeson, a veteran of many of the best sitcoms of Garry Marshall and James L. Brooks (who is one of this movie’s producers), clearly wants us to understand that the couple at the center of these proceedings are shallow, self-indulgent, awful people whose children (Sean Astin and Heather Fairfield) pay the price for their parent’s vitriol and pettiness. But Barbara and Oliver are painted as such two-dimensional clichés of shitty rich douchebags that it is impossible to relate to them. Thus, the picture never comes across as the universal warning to any viewers considering a divorce that it’s so obviously meant as. Instead, it’s a freak show. And DeVito loves these actors so much, and is having so much fun working with them again, that it feels like we’re watching them play a game of one-upmanship, where the goal is to see who can make their character more of an asshole, rather than to discover any truth or provide any insight into the toxic way so many relationships breakdown and end.

Twitter Capsule:
DeVito's black comedy about a bitter divorcing couple is an assault of shrill performances, vapid writing, and directorial excess. One of the most overrated films of the decade.

Directed by Danny DeVito
Produced by James L. Brooks and Arnon Milchan

Screenplay by Michael Leeson
Based on the novel by Warren Adler

With: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sägebrecht, Sean Astin, Heather Fairfield, G.D. Spradlin, David Wohl, and Dan Castellaneta

Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum
Editing: Lynzee Klingman
Music: David Newman

Runtime: 116 min
Release Date: 08 December 1989
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color