Saturday, February 13, 2010

War of the Roses

A civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms. So Look, here it is. We can begin. When it comes to your wife, I'm going to urge you to be generous to the point of night sweats. Because the all important thing here is to get you through this as quickly and cleanly as possible so that you can begin rebuilding your life.
--War of the Roses 

For Halloween, I posted the trailer to The Strangers.
My favorite Valentine Movie -- and one of my favorite movies of all time, is War of the Roses.

It came out Christmas 1989 just as I was finishing graduate school, which was a little after my parents' divorce wrapped up (which largely occupied the last few years of my college career). I don't talk a whole lot about their split (since the injunction and all.... Just Kiddin Mom!), but it'd be fair to say they gave the Roses a run for their money.

It was complicated. There were family farms and mineral rights and tobacco bases and cars and equipment and college kids and dying grandparents to be divided up. My dad's coal business collapsed and he had a heart attack and spent one entire Christmas break in the ICU (sans health insurance). Every one of my college professors knew every sordid detail (some of it from a very chatty financial aid office, no doubt); my brother changed high schools; and I am not entirely sure that law enforcement did not get involved at some point. My grandmother who half-raised me was dying of cancer, and developed this inconvenient deathbed intuition where she somehow knew every emotional nuance and intrigue that was going on around her, despite everyone's best inclinations to lie through their teeth. Then right toward the end of all of it, the house we grew up in burned to the ground, and what I'll say about that is.... it is not an entirely bad thing that most photographic evidence of my circa 70s/80s hairstyles was destroyed -- to say nothing of a decade of bad poetry (which certainly was NOT backed up on the TRS-80s of the era).

It was more than a little operatic but we all survived -- which is not to imply in any way that we are one of those new-age civilized families that gets together at the holidays or goes on vacations together. We do not. We tried one experimental Thanksgiving together -- I think Mom probably saw it in a movie and thought maybe that's how things were supposed to go -- but it was just tearing off the Band-Aid slowly. Quick is better. My mother has her family; my dad has his -- and I have separate-but-equal access to both, as does my brother. We just ended up with four elderly parents instead of two -- and I am grateful to have each of them.

Which is all maybe a long way of saying just how much I loved War of the Roses, though I'm not sure how much of it was timing. I remember all the critics complained when it came out that the final scene went too far, but not for me. When Michael Douglas reaches out to Kathleen Turner, and she reaches back.... to remove his hand... (probably with her dying breath), it's one of my favorite movie moments of all time.

That, my friends, is Comedy Gold.

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