War of the Roses
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A man (Douglas) and woman (Turner) fall madly in love. They get married, have kids, buy a house and begin living their lives together, as he works late hours as a lawyer and she...well, takes care of the kids and arranges the household. As time goes by, the differences between the Roses begin to surface. The missus seems to care less and less about her husband, and little details of his every day routine just make her want to "smash his face in". It doesn't take long before she asks for a divorce and the proceedings begin. But neither one of them is ready to give up the house (or back down on their pride) and so the war between the Roses begins...
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Easily one of my favorite black comedies of all-time! I love pretty much everything about this movie. First of all, the story is amazing. It sets itself up really nice, with a believable back story of the couple falling in love, having children, struggling and finally, making it in the world. It also provides a great transition to the smaller details of their every day lives, giving us real insight as to why things seem to go wrong. Like in many other relationships, this one seemed too unbalanced to succeed in the long-term, and as we see the pieces start to crumble, we sit and watch in grand amusement. But that's only the beginning. The actors in the movie are also perfect for their roles. These were the days of the Douglas/Turner/DeVito movies and you can't blame them for working together over and over, because they've obviously got a great chemistry. In the couple's case, it's important to really believe that they love one another at the beginning, and both actors perform the ideal dance between authenticity and over-the-top here. It goes without saying that the film's second half is where the real "action" takes place, but even though much of the behavior is crazy, both actors still give you that sense of believability, especially Douglas, who tries even harder to hang on to the marriage.
The film also adds a great score to its mix, some really pretty shots and set design, some of the funnier dialogue from the 80s (one of my personal favorites was "Have you ever made angry love?" -- "Is there any other way?") and allow me to shake Danny DeVito's hand for adding the perfect sense of wacky style to the directing of this picture. Some of the camera movements in this flick are truly amazing (note the one in which the camera follows Douglas falling down every single step, or following the flying plate through mid-air or the one in which the camera moves through an outside pane of glass directly into the house-- how'd they do that?) and the super-close ups, massive pans and quirky angles, all make for a greater complement to the film's ultimate degradation. The movie is also surprisingly dark, despite its many funny moments, and also teaches us all a valuable lesson: "Dog people should marry dog people and cat people should marry cat people". Seriously though...if you dig black comedies, this is one of the better ones of the bunch.
Yes...there is a commentary track on this DVD from director Danny Devito! Here's a man who obviously loves the craft of movie-making and also loves to talk about his movie. A great listen, DeVito gets into greater detail about some scenes in the film, his relationship with the actors, the people behind the production and laughs it up himself during certain scenes (Douglas' "fake laugh" gets me every time as well). Some of the cooler bits that I picked up were the fact that the film had an original cut of three hours and four minutes, the early sign of things to come as Douglas and Turner are seen to walk by two empty graves when they first meet and how a famous "film composer" acted like a total jerk when they were shooting in his neighborhood (DeVito wanted so badly to name this guy on the commentary track, but did the professional thing and held back). And even though DeVito mentions his love for his own movie several times during the track, he doesn't do it in a self-aggrandizing way. It's just obvious that he's extremely proud of his work, and I can't say that I blame the guy. With very few lulls (in fact, almost none), this is a great listen for anyone who loves this movie as much as I do. Oh yeah, I also liked how he kept referring to his own weight throughout the whole thing ("Man, look how fat I was in this scene"-- funny man).
But that's not all that this Special Edition holds. How about 20 minutes of deleted scenes? Oh yeah! As a huge fan of this film, these clips were like finding gold to me. The entire batch (which are all played together unfortunately) is introduced by DeVito, who once again, shows us how much he loves the process. Many of the scenes were cut for obvious reasons when you see them, but there were also a handful which added even more psychosis to the picture (a lot more back-and-forth between the nutty Roses). We are also shown some more cool shots from DeVito (which he himself referred to as self-indulgent in the commentary track), with one of my personal favorite being the "dolly zoom" (in which the character in the foreground remains the same size, but everything behind him gets bigger). The sauna "trippy" scene was also well-directed, and nice to see here. The end of the scenes also include a Rhea Perlman (DeVito's real-life wife) voice-over, screaming for her husband to "leave the movie alone already" and get back to his own family. Pretty funny.
And what else do you want? The DVD also adds storyboards from the movie (masterfully intercut with the actual scene from the movie, to give you an idea of how close they were-- and they were, quite close!), various still galleries (including posters for the movie from around the world), computer sketches, the script, as well as no less than 6 different TV spots for the movie (many of which were Christmas oriented and very well made!) and 4 movie trailers (again, very nice ones).
A great rental, a great purchase and a great buy for anyone interested in dark comedies, high style and relationships gone (very) bad movies! I've seen this movie many times and it's funny because I still tend to pick up new things every time that I watch it. The commentary track helped in this case, as DeVito gives small details which you might not have picked up on your first go-around, but the actors themselves also give off little "looks" and "flips of the bird" here and there, that it's fun to watch over and over (especially if you've just broken up yourself, since this will likely make you feel much better about your own situation). Amazing audio and video, mixed into a great movie with packed extras make for one of the funner DVDs of the year (animated menus as well). BTW, the film's tag line is one of the best of its kind: "Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love again. This is not that movie."