Taglines: Revenge is sweet… and low.
Ruth is a frumpy, overweight wife and mother, who tries desperately to please her husband Bob, an accountant trying to boost his business. After Bob meets Mary Fisher, a romance novelist, at a dinner party, they begin an affair. Ruth, aware of the affair, confronts Bob while his parents are visiting, and Bob leaves her. As he packs his suitcase, he says his assets are his home, his family, his career, and his freedom.
Angry, Ruth vows revenge on him and Mary. Ruth writes a list titled “Bob’s Assets”, with the four assets that Bob stated. She crosses off each one when it is destroyed. With Bob away at Mary’s and the kids at school, she sets the house on fire, which is destroyed in a gigantic explosion. She drops the children off with Bob (now living with Mary) and tells him that she will not be returning. However, she is still working behind the scenes to destroy Bob’s remaining assets. It is revealed that Bob’s second asset, his family, is being destroyed, too, as Mary’s selfish refusal to learn how to be a mother causes tension in her relationship with Bob.
Ruth takes a job at a nursing home under the pseudonym Vesta Rose, where she befriends Mary’s foul-mouthed, estranged mother, and arranges for her to return to Mary’s life at an inopportune moment. She also meets Nurse Hooper, a woman who has worked for the nursing home for twenty-two years and put aside her earnings for a considerable life savings. They form a partnership and start an employment agency for downtrodden women who have been rejected by society and need a second chance. The agency is a success, and women who Ruth has helped assist her in getting revenge on Bob.
Mary writes a new novel loosely based on her romance with Bob, which her publisher considers strange and off putting, because of its focus on laundry and the protagonists’ name, Bob. Olivia, an attractive but ditzy young blonde applies to Ruth’s agency, and she finds her a position as Bob’s secretary. He soon starts sleeping with her but when she proclaims her love, he immediately dumps and fires her. Olivia reveals to Ruth that Bob is a fraudster who cons money out of his clients by underreporting interest on their holdings. Ruth hacks his files and exposes this to clients and the police, thus destroying his career.
Mary’s career goes downhill, too. As she is being interviewed for a puff piece by People, her mother reveals embarrassing secrets about Mary that get titled “Dethroning the Queen of Romance”. Bob throws a party for Mary to cheer her up, which goes well until state troopers appear with a warrant for Bob’s arrest. Bob’s lawyer bribes a judge to ensure the verdict is favorable and unknowingly informs Mary that Bob has been stealing from her account as well.
As Mary leaves Bob, he realizes what he did to Ruth has happened to him and he has ended up with nothing because of his greed, selfishness, and infidelity. A woman who gained employment as a court clerk thanks to Ruth’s agency, pays Ruth back by reassigning Bob’s case to an unbiased judge. Bob is convicted of embezzlement and sent to prison, thus destroying his fourth and final asset, his freedom. Meanwhile, Mary sells her mansion when her novel fails, while Ruth’s business thrives.
She-Devil is a 1989 American black comedy film directed by Susan Seidelman and written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns. It stars Roseanne Barr in her film debut, Meryl Streep and Ed Begley, Jr.. A loose adaptation of the 1983 novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by British writer Fay Weldon, She-Devil tells the story of Ruth Patchett, a dumpy, overweight housewife who exacts devilish revenge on her philandering husband after he leaves her and their children for glamorous, best-selling romance novelist Mary Fisher.
The second adaption of Weldon’s novel after a BBC TV mini series was first broadcast in 1986, the film was shot amid the first season break of Barr’s highly successful ABC sitcom Roseanne in New York City throughout spring and summer 1989. For a while, Streep, who was one of the first actresses to read the script, considered taking the part of Ruth herself but later opted to play Fisher instead as she felt she had dealt with a similar subject in her previous film Evil Angels (1988).
Produced by Orion Pictures, She-Devil was released on December 8, 1989, and grossed $15.5 million at the box office. Critics praised both Barr and Streep’s performances but criticized the film for its tone. Streep earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy the following year.
Directed by: Susan Seidelman
Starring: Meryl Streep, Roseanne Barr, Ed Begley Jr., Linda Hunt, Sylvia Miles, Elisebeth Peters, Bryan Larkin, Maria Pitillo, Mary Louise Wilson, Susan Willis
Screenplay by: Barry Strugatz
Production Design by: Santo Loquasto
Cinematography by: Oliver Stapleton
Film Editing by: Craig McKay
Costume Design by: Albert Wolsky
Set Decoration by: George DeTitta Jr.
Art Direction by: Tom Warren
Music by: Howard Shore
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: December 8, 1989