The War of the Roses

1989

The War of the Roses

Critics Consensus

The War of the Roses is a black comedy made even funnier by hanging onto its caustic convictions -- and further distinguished by Danny DeVito's stylish direction.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 39

71%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 40,799
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Movie Info

Divorce lawyer Danny De Vito warns his prospective client that the story he's about to tell isn't a pretty one, but the client listens with eager intensity -- as do the folks out there in the movie in the audience. The War of the Roses can best be described as a slapstick tragedy concerning the decline and literal fall of a marriage. After 17 years, Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) Rose want a divorce. Not for this couple is there anything resembling a "civilized understanding": Barbara wants their opulent house, and Oliver isn't about to part with the domicile. Barbara nails the basement door shut while Oliver is downstairs, Oliver disrupts Barbara's fancy party by taking aim at the catered dinner, Barbara lays waste to Oliver's sports car....and so it goes, culminating in a disastrous showdown around, about and under the living room's fancy chandelier. DeVito and screenwriter Michael Leeson never let us forget that the couple's self-indulgent imbroglio exacts an awful price upon their children (Sean Astin and Heather Fairfield). The War of the Roses was adapted from the novel by Warren Adler. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast

Michael Douglas
as Oliver Rose
Kathleen Turner
as Barbara Rose
Danny DeVito
as Gavin D'Amato
Sean Astin
as Josh (at 17)
Heather Fairfield
as Carolyn (at 17)
G.D. Spradlin
as Harry Thurmont
Peter Donat
as Larrabee
Gloria Cromwell
as Mrs. Marshall
Trenton Teigen
as Josh (age 10)
Bethany McKinney
as Carolyn (age 10)
Dan Castellaneta
as Man in Chair
Tyler the Cat
as Kitty Kitty the Cat
Harlan Arnold
as Mr. Dell
Mary Fogarty
as Mrs. Dell
Peter Brocco
as Elderly Mourner
Philip Perlman
as Bidder at Auction
Susan Isaacs
as Autioneer's Assistant
Shirley Mitchell
as Mrs. Dewitt
Robert Michael Adler
as Dr. Hillerman
Jeff Thomas
as Orderly
Jacqueline Cassell
as Gavin's Secretary
Vickilyn Reynolds
as Nancy, Oliver's Secretary
Eunice Suarez
as Latin Woman
Julia Elliott
as Latin Assistant
Tony Crane
as Teenage Boy
Sue Palka
as Anchorwoman
Morris Jones
as Anchorman
Peter Hanson
as Mr. Marshall
Shaun Wickers
as Josh, Age 3
Prince A. Hughes
as Bleeding Man
Mary Donohue
as Carolyn, Age 3
Danitra Vance
as Manicurist Trainee
David Wohl
as Dr. Gordon
Prince Hughes
as Bleeding Man
Fred Scialla
as Stand-In
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News & Interviews for The War of the Roses

Critic Reviews for The War of the Roses

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (33) | Rotten (6)

  • DeVito's taste for unorthodox camera angles and striking camera movements occasionally verges on overreaching but for the most part admirably serves the action.

    Feb 11, 2008 | Rating: 3/4
  • Trying to wring yocks from a deranged couple locked in mortal combat over possession of their house is more suited to film noir than black comedy.

    Feb 11, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • De Vito's quirky camera angles and Kathleen Turner's steely-eyed spite inject a sadistic comic-strip madness into a film that for once has the nerve to see its nastiness through.

    Jan 26, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • DeVito's direction is distinctively odd (with a lot of low-angle shots looking up at things), enjoyably mischievous and always somehow mindful that there may be, at the heart of all this comic mayhem, something substantial going on.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5
  • DeVito triumphs by instilling this caustic satire with truth and consequence.

    May 12, 2001
  • [A] deliciously jaundiced perspective on matrimony.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The War of the Roses

  • Jun 11, 2014
    From Danny DeVito comes the dark comedy The War of the Roses, a mean spirited and bleak film. Based on a novel, the story follows a divorce that turns ugly and violent when neither the husband nor the wife is willing to give up the house. While none of the characters are likable, the wife is especially detestable. And the cast doesn't seem to be putting much effort into their performances. Still, there are a few fun moments and some of the satire works. But in the end, The War of the Roses is too dark for its own good and lacks a sense of tragedy.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 04, 2012
    A different viewpoint to look at marriage, Kathleen is amazing so is Michael. The War of the Roses inspired the action oriented Mr and Mrs Smith. Danny DeVito is the man!!
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Oct 09, 2011
    Oliver Rose: You weren't even multiorgasmic before you met me, were you?  "There is no winning! Only degrees of losing!" It took me a long time to finally watch this movie and it really was worth it. This is a dark comedy out of heaven. I loved everything about it. Danny DeVito's commentary and direction are awesome. And of course Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner give fantastic and fun performances as a married couple who are now dueling for their home. The movie is extremely fun and entertaining.  Oliver and Barbara Rose have been married for 17 years. In those 17 years, they had two kids and Oliver worked himself into a position where he is making loads of money. The family is rich and they buy their dream house. Barbara spends years making the house as perfect as possible, but when she is finally done she realizes that her marriage is no longer a satisfying one. She wants a divorce, but she also wants the house and Oliver isn't going to give that up easy. Basically the whole run time is full of marital disputes and craziness.  Kathleen Turner is so good at playing a bitch. She excels at it to such a degree, that I only think of her as a bitch. Michael Douglas is just Michael Douglas. He's a solid and multidimensional actor who never disappoints. Those two on screen together in this movie are perfect. They much more fun to watch then they were in Romancing The Stone.  The movie is essentially a drama that they playoff as a comedy, and it works really well. These types of Black Comedies don't always work, but when they do, they aren't just good, they're amazing. This is one of those examples. DeVito doesn't make a false step. He brings us into a world of marital hell and he does it with a strong sense of style and wit. 
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Jul 27, 2011
    A dark comedy ride with twists and turns galore, and most importantly; plenty of Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. Danny DeVito has directorial skill and definitely a gift for gab. Overall an interesting film, and worth a view.
    Liz < Super Reviewer

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