There seems to be a reluctance within most mainstream features to go over-the-edge with any sort of borderline objectionable emotion. Comedy/dramas are snippy, but they're never truly angry or mean-spirited. There's nothing particularly likable about the characters in "The War of the Roses", but as the main relationship desolves into such bitterness, there's something oddly enaging - we are compelled to see what'll happen next.
The film stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner as Barbara and Oliver Rose, a well-off couple who have been married for seventeen years and live in a beautiful, large home. There's little left in the relationship - but the home and at this point, it's really all that's holding the two within seeing distance of one another. Neither one of them will leave, so battle lines are drawn.
Devito plays both narrator and Oliver's lawyer-friend who shares the story of the Rose's assault on one another with anyone who will listen. Told in flashbacks, we learn how the two met, then watch as things turn bleaker and bleaker. There's something darkly funny about the lengths in which the two go to try and one-up each other. Douglas and Turner are terrific together, the perfect pairing of strong-willed individuals who ware more than willing to fight for what they believe is theirs. Devito has a good time in the supporting role, as well.
It's rare that a film can be so darkly funny and plain evil while not totally driving the audience away. The film is not without some brighter points: he thinks there's still something there at one point, but moments later, finds out that there's only more road to walk down in this war, as the couple begin to destroy everything they're fighting for. It's often quite funny and I doubt a film like it has been seen since - or will be seen for a while.
VIDEO: "War of the Roses" is presented by 20th Century Fox in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation is also THX approved. The image quality of the now 12-year old picture is generally satisfying, but there's some blemishes and problems here and there. While not distracting, they are slightly noticable. The film's cinematography (by usual Depalma cinematographer Stephen Burum) is attractive and slick, generally presented well here, aside from some moments of light softness here and there.
Print flaws in the form of some slight specks and dirt occasionally do turn up, but they usually appear in isolated instances, not consistently visible. The picture seemed entirely free of edge enhancement and all but a few very slight hints of pixelation. While not consistently sharp, at least the picture looked natural and "film-like".
Colors also looked splendid. Rich, natural and nicely-saturated, colors looked fine and didn't display any flaws such as smearing. Flesh tones were accurate and natural, as well. Generally a very nice effort, there's a few little things here and there from keeping this from being its best, but it's still a presentation that will likely please fans.
SOUND: "War of the Roses" is presented by Fox in Dolby 2.0. Fox may have decided to remaster the film in 4.0 or 5.1 or something like that, but I don't think it would have made a great deal of difference. The film is almost entirely dialogue-driven and there's not a particularly major role for the score. Audio quality is generally quite good - there's nothing objectionable about the dialogue quality, while the music sounds clear and crisp. There's little else to be found - not much in the way of subtle details or anything.
MENUS:: Slightly animated, there's some entertaining transitions between the main and sub-menus.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Danny Devito. Devito recorded a commentary for the film's laserdisc (Devito was apparently a big supporter of the format). Although I haven't seen the laserdisc so I didn't originally know if this was the same track, Devito eventually says that he's currently working on "Other People's Money", which is an older picture, so this is more than likely the laserdisc track. It's a very enjoyable track that really gets in-depth into the film's production and Devito's general thoughts about filmmaking. Devito is often riotously funny discussing what it's like to be a director on a film like this one and often launches into great stories about working on the set and what has to be done to get things completed. He points out a terrific amount of details; although there is a moment or two of silence here and there, I thought this was an excellent commentary.
Deleted Scenes Montage: Starting with a hilarious introduction by Devito, these sequences are presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen. Although I do agree with Devito's discussion of running time in the introduction, I think there are some bits here that are funny and should have been considered for inclusion, as they sort of complete some of the bits. There's about 20 minutes of deleted footage here - some of it didn't work, but I thought a fair percentage of it did.
Storyboards: Storyboards are included for four main sequences from the film.
Trailers/TV Spots: 4 trailers and 6 TV Spots.
Sketches: This section includes two pieces: one is a gallery containing sketches of the Rose house and the other gallery includes the director's computer sketches.
Script: The working draft of the film's screenplay. Browsing through some of it, I noticed a few differences between the script & final film.
Also: Still gallery and THX optimizer a/v tests.
Final Thoughts: Although I'd have recommended it anyways, the fact that Fox has priced this title at a low $19.99 (less at most stores) earns this title a definite recommendation. Good audio/video and a decent helping of extras at a nice price. Again, Fox shows the other studios how DVD should be done, which is why they will rank as the top DVD studio in my year-end "best of" listings.