The War of the Roses Makes Mincemeat out of Marriage and Manhood

By Bradford William Davis


Name: The War of the Roses

Year: 1989

Runtime: One hour, 56 minutes

Who you’ll recognize: Michael Douglas as subtly terrible “nice guy” Oliver Rose; Kathleen Turner as his increasingly disenchanted wife, Barbara. As Gavin D’Amato, Danny DeVito serves as Oliver’s attorney and narrator. Sean Astin also appears as teenaged son Joshua Rose sometime before he turned hobbit.

Why you should watch: The anti-rom-com’s gallows humor about marriage, love, and the love of money is entertaining on its own merits, but the slow burn of Turner’s righteous rage animates her desire. Or maybe you’ve streamed Love, Actually far too many times over the holidays. If so, The War of the Roses is the change of pace you need.

Why now: The War of the Roses pulled no punches in showing Oliver’s rationalizations for his actions (and their destructive consequences exemplified by the bloody climax) as little more than an overflow of his rotting soul. He treats Barbara with the thinnest veneer of established decorum, deluding himself and others from his manipulative and controlling behavior with a sick politeness. For those that have not suffered with an Oliver, you may have read about his kind in the headlines.

Quotables: “At 15, I became an evolutionist and it all became clear. We came from mud. And after 3.8 billion years of evolution, at our core is still mud. Nobody can be a divorce lawyer and doubt that.” — Gavin

Scale: Four precariously dangling chandeliers out of five.

Awards: Two wins and six nominations, including three Golden Globe nominations. Turner was nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Actress (Musical or Comedy).

Which HBO Character Would Watch: Divorce’s Frances and Robert should heed Gavin on preserving a mutually beneficial decoupling.