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Awesome: 19.05%
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1 review, 15 user ratings

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by Dr. Isaksson

"Romance Novelist gets a Date with Reality"
4 stars

It's always nice to see a female director come along. They are a rare breed yet when they do arrive and more often than not they leave a stamp of originality toward the craft of film making and offer us some memorable films that are sometimes a little different from the work of their male creators. Some good examples of this originality are Amy Heckerling, who gave us two teen classics "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Clueless." Then there's Katherine Bigelow, who took on the big action genre with "Point Break" and more recently with "K19 The Widowmaker". There's also Penelope Spheeris, who directed some SNL films like "Wayne's World" and "Black Sheep". Yet among this tiny group, there's one director who had made just as much of an impression on cinema but whose films kind of got lost in the crowd. Her name is Susan Seidelman and her 1985 film "Desperately Seeking Susan" became a critical success earning her a spot among the few esteemed women directors on the scene. (Not only that, but she can still claim to be the only director to have gotten a good performance out of Madonna.) In the late 80's she offered up a film adaptation of the Fay Weldon book "The Life and Loves of a She-Devil." The result becoming her most comical and biting satire ever with 1989's "She-Devil" starring Roseanne Barr and (amazingly) the 'Oscar Queen' herself, Meryl Streep. The film is like a very funny 'Lifetime Network Movie' flipped on it's head and gone horribly right.

Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep) is a Goddess in the world of the romance novel. A world inhabited by eager reading housewives like Ruth Patchett (Rosanne Barr) a fat, frumpy married mother of two. For Mary, her romantic writing is not just a fantasy but a billowing, overindulgent reality. She lives in a state of perfect pink bliss. In a huge pink mansion by the sea where she writes her novels on a pink Zenith word processor. But her whole pink life was about to change the day she accidentally gets a drink spilled on her by Ruth Patchett who is attending the same party with her accountant husband Bob (Ed Begley Jr.). Ruth is ecstatic to meet Ms. Fisher whose books she's a fan of but for Mary, the encounter with Ruth's husband Bob is far more enchanting than Ruth's adoration. The two lock eyes and suddenly Ruth is non existent. Bob offers to drive Mary home and after some small chit chat about how the world of accounting is so confusing for an artist such as she, their champagne glasses get tossed into the fireplace and the two submit to a romantic tryst that could've been torn right from the pages of one of her books.

When Bob starts staying out all night, Ruth isn't slow to realize that an affair between her husband and the famous author has begun. Ruth isn't certain how to take it but after a disastrous dinner with Bob's parents as guests, Bob gets fed up with Ruth and moves in with Mary who welcomes him in with dramatic fervor. Ruth, on the other hand, decides to take all this drama up another level. She turns on every electrical item in her house, tosses a handful of lit cigarettes in a trash can full of paper, and places a bunch of spray cans in the microwave. It's all craziness but one of the funniest scenes in the film as we see Ruth exiting her family's home just moments before it explodes in a mass of wood and glass and the second it blows, Ruth wears a huge grin of self-satisfaction that's completely ridiculous but funny as hell. She is on her way to taking control of her own life now.

First things first, Ruth drops off her two kids Nicolette and Andrew to live with their dad and Mary. This is much to Mary's chagrin because children are never a factor in her novels or her life. Pretty soon Mary is unable to write with Nicolette laying around all day talking on teen party lines while Andrew is leaping about with his own dog Fuzzy, teaching Mary's dog Juliet to fetch sticks. Something Mary considers a molestation of her pure bred poodle's good habits. Ruth Patchett in the meantime has taken a job at a nursing home. Here she meets Vesta Hooper (Oscar winner Linda Hunt) a squat, repressed woman who has saved up all of her earnings over the many years she has worked but has never had any idea of what she was going to do with it. Ruth, on the other hand, has a perfect plan for the money. And in a strange twist of fate Ruth meets Mary's mother at the home. Mrs. Fisher (Silvia Miles) who has been locked away for 10 years and who is all too willing to leave when Ruth gives her a one way taxi ride over to Mary's front door.

Mary's pretty pink world soon starts to feel nothing like her novels. She is harassed day and night by Nicolette, Andrew and her vengeful mother. Her relationship with Bob isn't as steamy as she wants it to be and when her latest novel is released entitled "Love in the Rinse Cycle," it fails miserably because the heroine of the book is a mother of two and has a husband called Bob. On the flipside, Ruth and Hooper have taken their life into their own hands and have decided to start an unemployment business for women. (There are some beautiful shots of the twin towers in these scenes.) Ruth has decided to find futures for other women in order to find a future for herself. Poor Mary Fisher on the other hand, gets another rough lesson in domestic realities when Uta, the maid, exclaims that she cannot do any laundry at the moment because "Fuzzy has just shit on the carpet." Mary has a go at the laundry by pouring in a bottle of bleach and a handful of dryer sheets and ends screwing up the clothes and breaking her nail. Mary just hasn't learned the art of standing up against those who are leaching off you. In her novels, the women just lie passive and the men take care of it. But soon enough, she hits her limit with one hilarious breakdown scene. Ironically, for Ruth, a taste of the freedom that Mary had enjoyed all those years as a successful writer are now something she herself can thrive off of. Ultimately, the roles of these two women completely switched but both come out learning a hard fought lesson. But of course there is a whole crapload of funny moments spun throughout the film before the two reach those crossroads.

I saw She-Devil when it came to theaters as a kid and I liked it then and I still think it's funny now. I remember Rodger Ebert saying that after giving the film a thumbs down on it's release he saw it years later and had to admit that he found it funny a second time around. Of course humor has changed a bit and to me it's so interesting to watch a film where Roseanne's character can improve her life without the aid of a dashing man to come in and sweep her off her feet (which is the case in just about every Jennifer Lopez or Sandra Bullock flick) and she didn't have to drastically change her appearance to be accepted and adored like in The Princess Diaries.) There is a small line of feminism flowing through She-Devil but it never comes out and whollops you over the head with the notion that women are the superior sex. It simply states that women can do what they want if they want it bad enough... Oh and if they have a vengeful side, then DO NOT cheat on them.

Susan Seidelman shot all of her films in New York City which has become a rarity nowadays. Just as it was in Desperately Seeking Susan, the scenes she captures of New York City are really beautiful. It's always good to see a director who loves their city. As for the cast and their performances, Meryl Streep plays the role of Mary Fisher with a flamboyance and gusto that's unparalleled. She breathes life into the twitty, unsuspecting Mary with such believability and such a talent for detail that you never feel like she's over acting even though she clearly IS. Makes wish she would do more comedic roles, Hollywood could use her. I've read reviews that say Roseanne under plays her role as Ruth and that spoils the film. But Ruth was meant to be a meager person full of insecurities and I think it's refreshing to see Roseanne calm, collected and vindictive as opposed to the nasal, big mouthed mother she played on her sitcom. Ed Begley Jr. was a strange choice for Bob Patchett but again, he makes it work by just playing Bob as a stupid adulterer who doesn't seem to think there any ramifications for what he is doing. After seeing him in two more great comedies The Crazysitter and Best in Show I like this guy more and more and can understand why directors choose him for their comedies. As for the director Susan Seidelman, she has gone on to direct for television saying in a documentary that it was just too hard to get funding from Hollywood for the kind of films she wanted to make. So I guess now we'll just have to settle with films like The Sweetest Thing as the new representation of the female comedy. ::Shudder::

PS. Look for Deborah Rush (Jerri Blank's Stepmother from Strangers With Candy) as a woman reporter interviewing Mary Fisher for People Magazine.)

"She-Devil" isn't perfect but the intricate plot and the brilliant performance by Streep makes it a joy to watch and to this day I still think it's a funny film. **** 4 Stars

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3590&reviewer=296
originally posted: 08/15/03 17:02:30
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User Comments

4/03/18 Louise No way is this as faithful and powerful as the BBC version - this is just Hollywood tripe. 1 stars
9/21/11 Jessica Davis Keeps BEATH BECOMES HER from being Meryl Streep's worst movie. Otherwise no raison d'etre. 1 stars
8/08/07 rose steel its a modernized version of the greek story Media 5 stars
5/06/04 Ross I wish they would stop making these movies, but I watched it till the end 3 stars
1/20/04 Betty White At times hysterical comedy; Streep is a tour-de-force. 5 stars
12/31/03 ******************* You have to see the 80's BBC version, you won't believe how much better it is! 2 stars
9/04/03 filmfatale Fun, edgy, even nasty but worthwhile. 4 stars
11/06/02 Charles Tatum Streep is funny, everyone else ain't 3 stars
4/24/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Lives up to title. I'm sure Meryl Streep poops in her pants when remembring participating. 1 stars
1/22/02 Andrew Carden Extremly Funny Movie. Roseanne Is Awesome. 5 stars
6/14/01 Bada Bing Crosby Streep elevates this as Roseanne ruins it; Linda Hunt & Sylvia Miles help out 4 stars
5/09/01 Jake I think the whole cast was great! The plot takes crazy turns, It's funny and creative. 5 stars
2/08/01 Dark Sol Roseanne lost it while Streep was excellent 4 stars
2/08/01 Golbez It's all about extremes measures about a typical aldultery. 4 stars
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  02-Dec-1989 (PG-13)



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