Saturday, October 22, 2011
Screen Gem Saturdays: War of the Roses
I remember sitting in a theater back in 1989 and seeing the trailer for the newest Kathleen Turner & Michael Douglas movie, "The War of the Roses." The music was a Danny Elfman style raucous cacophony, and the clips that were edited together made it look like bedroom farce with people swinging on chandeliers and throwing things at each other. The film that was released was quite different, and at first I didn't quite get it. The music in the trailer was nowhere apparent in the film; instead, it was more restrained. The movie was also (for the most part) more restrained and less about physical comedy. I was a bit confused and admittedly disappointed. The trailer promised "Romancing the Stone" in the bedroom, but delivered the sad disintegration of a marriage instead. When it came out on home video, I gave it a second chance and thought, "Hey, this isn't so bad..."
Since that time, I have watched it countless times and can now count it as one of my favorite films. I don't know who put the trailer together that I saw back in '89, but they sure did the movie a disservice.
If you've never seen it, let me warn you...it can be a heavy film at times, especially if you've lived through a divorce. It is a rare take on the topic though, as most Hollywood films show outside forces as being the culprits for two people pulling apart. Instead, Oliver & Barbara Rose (played expertly by Douglas and Turner) slowly drift apart over the years as Barbara becomes more and more disgusted with her self-centered husband who works his way up the ladder of his career while neglecting the wife at home who helped him reach the top.
Having previously worked together in "Romancing the Stone" and "Jewel of the Nile" (what a turkey that one is...Turner was right to initially refuse to do it), Turner and Douglas display a chemistry that would rival the greatest of Hollywood's screen teams. Sometimes over the top in her movies, Turner is at her very best here showing a restraint that makes the audience sympathize with the years of neglect her character has put up with.
Danny DeVito directs the film and also plays a narrator of sorts. His character, Gavin d'Amato, is a colleague of Oliver Rose who also represents him in his acrimonious divorce from Barbara. Gavin ponders, "There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull. How do you hold onto someone who won't stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won't go?" As things continue to get uglier between the Roses, who inhabit the same house during the proceedings, Barbara decides to throw herself on Gavin to entice him talk Oliver out of keeping the house.
Barbara kicks off one of her heels and puts her foot in Gavin's crotch, knowing that years earlier at one of her dinner parties, Gavin got a foot job under the table from his date.
Barbara Rose: what would it take to get you to help me, Gavin?
Gavin: Come on, put your shoes on, Barbara. I haven't been into feet since '82.
Although tempted, Gavin comes to his senses and wards of her advances despite finding out that her previous training as a gymnast would have made her a very flexible partner in the hay.
I'm all for happy endings, but this one will blow you away. The climax of the film is played between Turner, Douglas, and a chandelier...and nobody wins. Turner's final tiny gesture shows just how much disgust she has for Oliver, whose stupidity and macho bravado causes their ultimate demise.
If you like black comedies, they don't get blacker than this one.
UPDATE: I decided to look for the trailer that I recalled from over 20 years ago and found it on Youtube:
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