Danny DeVito’s 1989 black comedy reunites him with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner after their successful collaborations in Romancing the Stone and The Jewell of the Nile.
The War of the Roses is quite a departure from those earlier movies but none the less enjoyable for it. Having absolutely nothing to do with the actual War of the Roses, it’s instead about the disintegration of the marriage of a couple whose surname is Rose.
While the movie is pretty dark, outlandish and surreal, the build-up is subtle enough that by the time the ill-fated couple really start to let loose on each other, enough groundwork has been done for the events to make sense within the movie’s own internal logic.
Turner and Douglas have enormous fun as the warring spouses and, bleak though the movie ultimately is, it does have the decency to also be genuinely funny.
Score for Christmasishness
While certainly not a Christmas film, the narrative does feature two different Christmases, the first when the titular couple are still very much in love (albeit the early cracks in their marriage are beginning to show slightly) and later on we see a different, very awkward family Christmas, after the couple have notionally separated but still find themselves living in the same house. There are a few call-backs to the first Christmas in the latter and the two events serve as a poignant juxtaposition to highlight the different stages of their relationship. Both Christmases feature all the usual trimmings, and there is plenty of snow. A gift from the first Christmas also returns as a significant motif for the failing relationship towards the denouement of the movie. It’s not exactly a movie full of joy, but it is hilarious and certainly a bit Christmas(ish).