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A Review of The War of The Roses: You’ll Wish You Never Fell In Love

War of the Roses Review
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

The Insane Story of The War of the Roses

The War of the Roses makes you think twice about getting married and three times about getting divorced. On the surface, Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) have it all.  The meet and instantly connect.  Soon they are living the dream. The is a wealthy, happily married couple with an idyllic life.  Then Barbara begins to crave a life outside of the marriage and starts to resent and eventually hate Oliver.  

Both Barbara and Oliver want to stay in the house and neither is willing to compromise.  They begin a sadomasochistic campaign to try and drive each other out of the house, each of them going further and further over the line.  In the middle, their divorce lawyer D’Amato (DeVito), who is worried about just how far they’ll go. 

The War of the Roses was one of the darkest comedies of the 80s and is criminally underrated when people look back at this era in filmmaking. Danny DeVito would direct three films featuring himself, Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.  Romancing The Stone (1984), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), and The War of The Roses (1989). 

This is a film that takes a lot of risks.  For starters, it makes both it’s leads extremely unlikable.  The tagline to the movie should have been a warning ‘once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again…this is not that movie’.  

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War of the Roses Michael Douglas
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox
  • Directed by: Danny DeVito 
  • Run time: 1 hr 56 min
  • Release date: 9th March 1990
  • 15 Certificate
  • Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito

Did you know?

Actor Michael Adler, who plays Dr. Hillermand in the movie, is actually the son of Warren Adler, the author of The War of the Roses

Editing and Sound Design 

The film is beautifully shot and put together, portraying the shiny, if superficial perfection of wealthy suburbia which slowly begins to unravel alongside Barbara and Oliver as they almost literally go to war inside their own home.  

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The Set

While the exterior of Rose’s beautiful home is actually in LA’s upmarket Hancock Park, the majority of the movie was shot on a Twentieth-Century Fox soundstage.  


Michael Douglas is no stranger to starring in movies that push the limit. In Fatal Attraction, Douglas risked it all for a one-night stand. As Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, he coined the phrase “Greed is Good.” Despite becoming a leading man in Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, Michael Douglas was better to know as a producer, have produced such successful films as One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Chine Syndrome, and Starman.  

The War of the Roses Directed By Danny Devito
Editorial Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Both Turner and Douglas had played the romantic leads in The Jewel of the Nile and Romancing the Stone. It was a genius move by Danny DeVito as it totally subverted the expectations of an audience who were expecting to see a dark comedy, but with an ultimately satisfying ending. 

Kathleen Turner has been quietly making a name for herself in a mixture of comedic and more serious roles. Her sultry voice will also forever be associated with Jessica Rabbit. 

Action Sequences

It’s amazing the amount of action that the movie managed to fit in.  As the Roses find themselves alone in the house, without the danger of the children stopping by, they did in like enemy soldiers, each plotting their next attack on their spouse.  Each more ludicrous and vicious than the last. 

It’s almost all practical FX too, done by the stunt teams and Turner and Douglas at times. 

The War of the Roses Finale

The War of The Roses is like a movie love story that didn’t get the memo.  It starts with the cute meet, the happily ever after, and then unravels in a dark and twisty mess of apathy, resentment, pet murder (implied), and violence.  

Just when you think it’s about to redeem it’s love story credentials, it takes the viewer further into the madness and does what very few movies dare to do – and doesn’t give them a happy ending. 

In fact, even though test audiences didn’t like the ending, DeVito fought to keep it and won against the studio, who had already made him cut the film significantly and tone down some of the more outrageous moments.  Some of these deleted scenes can be found on the laserdisc version (remember those?) or DVD re-release. 

The War of the Roses is a biting tale of love, apathy, and the dark side of an unfulfilled marriage taken to extremes.

As always, Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas are excellent, and you’re left wondering why Danny DeVito doesn’t direct more movies. 


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