The War of the Roses (film)

Infobox Film
name = The War of the Roses

caption = Theatrical release poster
imdb_id = 0098621
producer = James L. Brooks & Arnon Milchan
director = Danny DeVito
writer = Warren Adler (novel)
Michael J. Leeson (screenplay)
budget = $50 million
gross = $150 million
starring = Michael Douglas
Kathleen Turner
Danny DeVito
music = David Newman
cinematography = Stephen H. Burum
editing = Lynzee Klingman |
distributor = 20th Century Fox
released = December 8, 1989
runtime = 116 min.
country = USA
language = English

"The War of the Roses" is a 1989 American motion picture based upon the 1981 novel "The War of the Roses" by Warren Adler. It is a dark comedy about a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage. He is a successful lawyer and his wife is building her own catering business. When their marriage begins to fall apart, material possessions become the center of an outrageous and bitter divorce battle. This is the third film to co-star Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, and Danny DeVito after "Romancing the Stone" and its sequel "The Jewel of the Nile".

In both the novel and the movie, the married couple's family name is Rose. At the same time, the title alludes to the battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster at the end of the Middle Ages (see Wars of the Roses).


*Michael Douglas : Oliver Rose
*Kathleen Turner : Barbara Rose
*Danny DeVito : Gavin D'Amato, attorney
*Marianne Sägebrecht : Susan
*Sean Astin : Josh at 17
*Heather Fairfield : Carolyn at 17
*G.D. Spradlin : Harry Thurmont
*Peter Donat : Jason Larrabee


The film begins with lawyer Gavin D'Amato (Danny DeVito) talking to a client about the subject of divorce and cigarettes. Gavin tells the man that he "quit [smoking] for thirteen years, and then Barbara showed up". A brief flashback shows Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) trying to seduce Gavin. Gavin then begins to tell his client about the War of the Roses.

Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) meets Barbara in Nantucket at the end of the tourist season. They both find a small auction tent and proceed to bargain. Oliver spots an antique Japanese Homunculus (a delicate statue) up for auction. As he begins to bid on it, he is consistently overbid by Barbara, with Barbara ultimately winning the bid. Oliver tries to get the statue from Barbara and they have a pleasant conversation, in which Barbara demonstrates some of her strength moves from gymnastics. Later she misses her ferry and winds up having sex with Oliver.

We move forward a few years, with Oliver now working very hard in his firm, Barbara is a waitress, and they have two children, Josh and Carolyn. Already, we see that the children are very disobedient and spoiled, and we learn that they get this from their mother, who constantly gives them treats, under the delusion that if she gives them what they want (particularly candy), they will grow up to be the perfect kids.

Barbara encourages Oliver out for a walk on Christmas Eve where she reveals to him that she bought him a Morgan, a classic automobile that Oliver has always wanted. It seems like a fairy tale, but is far from it.

Moving a few years ahead, we have come to find that Oliver has been very successful in his practice, Barbara is still a waitress and the kids have become obese. Oliver has invited his senior partners over for dinner at their apartment and wants to make a favorable impression. Oliver wants to show off their Baccarat glassware and insists that Barbara tell the story about how they got it. Barbara begins to tell the guests the story, but she is constantly interrupted by Oliver when she doesn't get the facts right. She is also annoyed with Oliver's fake laugh with his partners and the fact that Gavin is playing footsie with his date, using carrots to massage her feet. That night, she begins to taunt Oliver about his laugh.

Some time later, we find that Barbara has been writing notes to a mansions owners in the hopes that one will sell to her. On one such occasion, much to the annoyance of Josh and Carolyn, she writes a letter to an owner, and when she attempts to put the letter on the door, she meets the daughter of the owner of the mansion who just recently died. The daughter is looking for someone to take care of the house and eventually, the Roses purchase the house.

After many years of slaving over furniture and decor, Barbara finishes the house to her satisfaction. The kids (now trim and athletic) are off at college. She begins her own catering business and buys herself a large SUV, much to Oliver's chagrin. As events unfold, Barbara has become annoyed with everything Oliver does, and Oliver is oblivious to his wife's feelings. When she asks him to check a contract for a luncheon she is catering, he smashes a fly with the paper, then gets excited when a phone call he has been expecting results in good news for him. Barbara proceeds to set every kitchen appliance running and leaves the room.

That night, Oliver and Barbara begin wrestling in bed, when Barbara squeezes Oliver between her legs, causing him pain. When he begins to taunt her, she switches off the light and turns her back on him. He utters "What the hell is wrong with you?". She doesn't answer. Gavin, in his storytelling, tells his client that when a man is with a woman for great length, he will eventually ask her that question.

The next day, Oliver suffers what he thinks is a heart-attack while at lunch with his clients. He is rushed to the hospital. Oliver is scared because he thinks he's going to die, and writes a note to Barbara saying "All that I am and all that I have I owe to you". He comes to find it wasn't a heart attack after all, and waits for Barbara to pick him up at the hospital. She never shows up. He ends up having to take a train home.

Later, Barbara comes home and is relieved that he is okay. He reads her his note. Later that night, Oliver is fast asleep and Barbara is restless. She wakes Oliver by putting her fingers up his nose, wanting to talk to him about what happened to her on the way to the hospital. She tells him that she felt scared because she felt happy, happy that she would be free of him. She eventually reveals that she wants a divorce, having grown so disgusted with him that she wants to "smash his face in" every time she sees him. When Oliver angrily dares her, she responds with a punch that sends her husband reeling. Oliver then tells her to get a good lawyer to which she responds, "The best your money can buy."

Unfortunately, they both want the house and its contents, and neither will budge. This results in their harassing each other, making wild scenes, and destroying each other's prized possessions. Oliver runs over Barbara's cat and throws it in the trash, leaving her to wonder what happened to it. When Barbara has numerous guests over for dinner, Oliver walks in, clearly drunk, and proceeds, in front of everyone, to blow his nose and toss the used tissue into a large bowl of soup. He storms into the kitchen where he is discovered, by Barbara and a guest, urinating in the fish platter - the next course. Barbara hits him on the back with the pan, and then drives her SUV into Oliver's car, she then drives to the end of the street and turns around. By this point the guests are watching in disbelief and Barbara revs the engine so Oliver tries to get into his car to save it but the door jams and Barbara flies towards him and swerves at the last minute before doing another handbrake turn. Oliver gets into his car and over a speaker Barbara cooly says "get out of the car hon" and then rolls up to him before pushing his car across the lawn into a raised flower bed and then mounts the Morgan, crushing it to nothing and off the other side of the flower bed. She stops and oliver gets out of the car and attempts to smash up her truck but she floors it away. The next day she makes him some pate and he describes it as delicious. Although Oliver's dog is alive and well outside, Barbara insinuates the pate is made from the dog. Enraged, Oliver attacks her and this fight results in their running through the house, throwing dishes and other valuables at each other.Oliver throws a chair at the housekeeper Susan after mistaking her for Barbara and then shows her out so Susan calls Gavin. Eventually the only ornament left in the house is the one from the auction and Oliver attaches it to a string on the bannister so that when she tries to get it her could catch it. He says to Barbara "you can have the house if you say its mine" she replies "okay... it's mine". oliver then smashes it and Barbara pretends she was hit by a piece and he runs to her so she gets into a fight with him and then she falls throgh the bannister and grabs the chandelier. She makes herself comfortable on it and in an effort to hit her with a crowbar, he is dragged onto the chandelier. As they are both trapped from the chandelier, they talk and he says he still loves her and she is about to respond but Susan who had contacted Gavin, see's them through a window and the Roses scream for Gavin to get a ladder. The chandelier drops slightly and Barbara announces that she loosened the bolt to make it drop on him but her assures her that the two wires can hold 200lbs. each, however the wires snap from the junction box and the chandelier falls onto the hallway floor. With his last bit of strength Oliver puts his hand on Barbaras shoulder. She looks and you think she is putting her hand on his but she's actually throwing his hand off. Then they die. Gavin and Susan burst in the house and see them dead.

The movie then goes back to Gavin talking to his client, telling him that he has one of two options - he can go ahead with the divorce the man is looking for - which would require a long, tough fight. Or he can get up and go home to his wife and try to work things out. Gavin turns his back to light a cigarette while the client quietly gets up and walks out of the office. Gavin smiles, calls his own wife, tells her he'll be home soon and that he loves her, then hangs up, looking out the window.

DVD Release

"The War of the Roses" was released on DVD on "December 18, 2001". The movie is presented in its original 1.85:1 Widescreen format.


*Director's Commentary with Danny DeVito
*Deleted Scenes
*Computer Sketches
*Still Galleries
*Four Theatrical Trailers
*And All Six TV Spots


Upon its release, the film was a huge success with critics and was an enormous box-office hit, bringing in $83 million domestically in U.S. Box Office recipts.The film maintains a positive 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an above average rating of 8/10.

Promotional Faux Pas

During the promotion for this film in 1989, stars Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito appeared on the then-popular late-night talk show hosted by Arsenio Hall. During the discussion of the film, Arsenio Hall, somewhat aloofly, gave away the ending to the film, much to the apparent shock of his two guests. The faux pas was actually aired, along with Douglas' and DeVito's reactions, though Arsenio Hall later in the program unsuccessfully tried to save face by turning his mistake into a joke.

Award Nominations

*BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay – (Michael J. Leeson)
*Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy
*Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy - (Michael Douglas)
*Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy - (Kathleen Turner)

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