Lawyer Gavin D’Amato is in his office discussing a divorce case with a client. Noticing the man’s determination to divorce his wife, Gavin decides to tell him the story of one of his clients, a personal friend of his.
17 years earlier, Oliver Rose, a student at Harvard Law School, meets Barbara at an auction, where they bid on the same antique. Oliver chats Barbara up and they become friends. When Barbara misses her ferry home, the two end up spending the night together at a local hotel. Eventually the two marry and have two children, Josh and Carolyn. Over the years, the Roses grow richer, and Barbara finds an old mansion whose owner has recently died, purchases it and devotes her time to making a home there.
However, cracks seem to be forming in the family as they both begin to disapprove to how they raise their two children as Barbara feels that spoiling Josh and Carolyn with candy is a good thing which that she never had growing up from her own parents. As a result, both Josh and Carolyn become very obese at a young age, and do not try to lose weight until they graduate from high school and begin to attend college. As Oliver becomes a successful partner in his law firm, Barbara, who was a doting and loving wife early in the marriage, appears to grow restless in her life with Oliver, and begins to dislike him immensely.
Oliver, for his part, cannot understand what he has done to earn Barbara’s growing contempt, despite his controlling, self-centered, and generally dismissive behavior toward her. When Oliver believes he is suffering a heart attack, (actually a hiatal hernia) the day after an argument, Barbara (after her initial shock and concern) realizes she felt a sense of relief that he might be dead. She tells him so, adding that she no longer loves him and wants a divorce and Oliver accepts. Feeling that it might not be wise to represent himself, Oliver hires Gavin as his legal counsel on a retainer.
Tension arises between Oliver and Barbara during negotiations when it becomes clear that she wants the house and everything in it. When Barbara’s lawyer uses Oliver’s final love note to her (which he had written in the hospital) as leverage against him in their legal battle, she refuses to back down. Barbara initially throws Oliver out of the house, but he moves back in after discovering a loophole in the divorce that allows him to stay until their divorce is finalized. As a result, Barbara immediately begins plotting to remove Oliver herself, even going as far as trying to seduce Oliver’s lawyer Gavin into siding with her instead.
The War of the Roses is a 1989 American black comedy film based upon the 1981 novel The War of the Roses by Warren Adler. The film follows a wealthy couple with a seemingly perfect marriage. 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. DeVito directed the film, which also had producer James L. Brooks and actor Dan Castellaneta working on a project outside of The Simpsons. The opening title sequence was created by Saul Bass. In both the novel and the film, the married couple’s family name is Rose, and the title is an allusion to the battles between the Houses of York and Lancaster at the end of the Middle Ages.
The War of the Roses (1989)
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Starring: Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner, Danny DeVito, Marianne Sägebrecht, Sean Astin, Heather Fairfield, Peter Donat, Dan Castellaneta, Gloria Cromwell
Screenplay by: Michael J. Leeson
Production Design by: Ida Random
Cinematography by: Stephen H. Burum
Film Editing by: Lynzee Klingman
Costume Design by: Gloria Gresham
Set Decoration by: Anne D. McCulley
Art Direction by: Mark W. Mansbridge
Music by: David Newman
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 8, 1989