|Directed by||Susan Seidelman|
|Produced by||Jonathan Brett
|Screenplay by||Barry Strugatz
Mark R. Burns
|Based on||The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
by Fay Weldon
Ed Begley, Jr.
|Narrated by||Roseanne Barr|
|Music by||Howard Shore|
|Edited by||Craig McKay|
|Distributed by||Orion Pictures (film)
|December 8, 1989|
|Box office||$15,351,421 (Domestic)|
She-Devil is a 1989 American dark comedy film directed by Susan Seidelman and written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns. It stars Meryl Streep, Ed Begley, Jr. and Roseanne Barr in her film debut. A loose adaptation of the 1983 novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by British writer Fay Weldon, She-Devil tells the story of Ruth Patchett, a dumpy, overweight housewife who exacts devilish revenge on her philandering husband after he leaves her and their children for glamorous, best-selling romance novelist Mary Fisher.
The second adaption of Weldon's novel after a BBC TV mini series was first broadcast in 1986, the film was shot amid the first season break of Barr's highly successful ABC sitcom Roseanne in New York throughout spring and summer 1989. For a while, Streep, who was one of the first actresses to read the script, because she and director Susan Seidelman shared the same agent, considered taking the part of Ruth herself but later opted to play Fisher instead as she felt she had dealt with a similar subject in her previous film Evil Angels (1988).
Produced by Orion Pictures, She-Devil was released on December 8, 1989, receiving mixed reviews and was a moderate commercial success. Critics praised both Barr and Streep's performances, but criticized the film for its tone. Streep earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy the following year.
Ruth Patchett (Roseanne Barr) is a frumpy, overweight housewife and mother, who desperately tries to please her attractive accountant husband Bob (Ed Begley, Jr.). After Bob meets romance novelist Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep) at a dinner party, they begin having an affair; Mary also hires him as her accountant. Though aware of the affair, Ruth at first tries not to overreact, denying this is anything of gravity (believing it to be a fling which Bob will leave) and continues to take care of her two children, Nicolette (Elisebeth Peters) and Andy (Bryan Larkin). However, Ruth soon begins to feel ragged after trying to prepare for Bob's parents' visit, culminating with Ruth finding Andrew's dead gerbil in a casserole pot. After Ruth confronts him about his affair in front of his parents, Bob decides to pack up his things and leave Ruth with the kids, calling her a liability and telling her she is a bad mother, a lousy wife, a terrible cook, and has the appearance of a "she-devil", while naming his assets according to him, every man should have. Now at her breaking point, Ruth vows to get revenge on both Bob and Mary. Ruth writes a list of the assets Bob dictated to her: his home, his family, his career, and his freedom, crossing off each one as it is destroyed.
With Bob away at Mary's mansion by the sea and the kids at school, she sets the house on fire through numerous methods such as tossing two lit cigarettes into a waste basket, microwaving aerosol cans, and overloading an electrical outlet. Ruth takes the family dog, a framed photo of the Patchett family, and - significantly for Ruth's plan of revenge - Bob's file on Mary's finances before leaving as the house explodes in a massive fireball. Surprisingly, Ruth is not suspected of arson, as the neighbors chalk it up to the problems with their foundation homes. Ruth then drops the children and dog off at Mary's mansion to live with their father. After seeing in Mary's file that Mary pays for her mother to live in an expensive nursing home, Ruth makes plans to infiltrate Mary through her mother. After seeing an old lady selling roses, Ruth applies for a job at the nursing home under the pseudonym Vesta Rose. There, she is made to work under the diminutive Nurse Hooper (Linda Hunt), and sees it is a drab place. As part of her plan, Ruth switches medications, which causes the nursing home residents to become more active and Mary's mother (Sylvia Miles) to open up and befriend Ruth, who also says she resents being placed away in a rest home while her daughter is living it up. Ruth covertly arranges to get Mary's mother thrown out of the home. At the recommendation of the nursing home owner, Mrs. Fisher moves in with her daughter, much to Mary's chagrin.
After getting to know Ruth, Nurse Hooper reveals she accumulated a sizable nest egg from years of working and scrimping, which she uses to partner with Ruth in starting the Vesta Rose Employment Agency, which helps downtrodden, socially rejected women find good jobs in exchange for them unwittingly helping Ruth in her quest for vengeance against Bob; one such example is Olivia Honey (Maria Pitillo), whom Bob hires as his secretary. Though Bob falls for Olivia at first sight, he fires her after she confesses her love for him; a heartbroken Olivia reveals to Ruth that Bob wires interest from his clients' accounts into an offshore Swiss bank account. Both women break into Bob's firm to wire larger amounts of money from Bob's clients' accounts into Bob's Swiss account, making his embezzlement more visible to his clients. Ruth then reports Bob's crimes to the IRS.
Meanwhile, Mary's life crumbles around her, as her relationship with Bob grows distant, she has a hard time keeping Bob's children under control (since Bob is unwilling to enforce discipline with them), is forced to do various chores by herself, as her maid Ute (Susan Willis) is busy with the increased workload from the Patchett family, and her butler Garcia (A Martinez) is unwilling to help out. Andrew takes advantage of Mary's mansion to slack off, and Nicolette takes on Mary's traits. Mrs. Fisher reveals Mary's lifelong secrets to a reporter for People magazine while the Mary is in the house on the phone. This gets published in a forthcoming issue with the headline "Dethroning the Queen of Romance", further exasperating Mary. Compounding matters for Mary is the poor reception of her new novel titled "Love in the Rinse Cycle," and learning of Bob's affairs behind her back. However, upon seeing Ute walk off the job and everyone partying around, she finally decides to regain control of her life; she fires Garcia and lays down the law with Bob, the children, and her mother.
Later, Mary throws a party to spend time with her friends and cheer up, but police officers show up during the party with a warrant for Bob's arrest. After Bob's lawyer unknowingly reveals Bob's embezzling from her, Mary promptly dumps Bob and fires him as her accountant. Bob and his lawyer earlier tried to make a secret deal with one judge, but the plan falls apart as Ruth calls in a favor to a woman whom she got a job clerking, who then switches Bob's case to an unbiased judge. Bob is convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in prison, thus destroying his last asset - his freedom.
One year later, Ruth and the kids visit an imprisoned Bob. Bob tells Ruth he will be free in a couple of months and is looking forward to catching up with the family, causing Ruth to comment that people can change for the better. Mary sold her mansion and released a new novel "Trust and Betrayal: A Docu-novel of Love, Money and Skepticism," which proves to be a critical and commercial success. Ruth appears at the book signing and asks the autograph to be made out to "Ruth." Mary experiences a brief lapse of déjà vu, but shrugs it off. Next in line after Ruth is Alain, a handsome Frenchman whom Mary flirts with, showing that she is back to her old ways.
- Roseanne Barr as Ruth Patchett
- Meryl Streep as Mary Fisher
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Bob Patchett
- Linda Hunt as Hooper
- Sylvia Miles as Mrs. Fisher
- Elisebeth Peters as Nicolette Patchett
- Bryan Larkin as Andy Patchett
- A Martinez as Garcia
- Maria Pitillo as Olivia Honey
- Mary Louise Wilson as Mrs. Trumper
- Susan Willis as Ute
- Jack Gilpin as Larry
- Robin Leach as Himself
- Nitchie Barrett as Bob's Secretary
- June Gable as Realtor
The musical score for She-Devil was composed by Howard Shore. A soundtrack album was released on November 15, 1989 by Mercury Records. Shore's score was later released in a limited edition of 1,000 copies by Music Box Records.
The film earned mixed reviews from critics, as it currently holds a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Sathi Leelavathi (1995) Tamil remake of this film.
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