Saturday, October 23, 2010

Underrated Classics: She-Devil

I've spent pretty much the entire day indulging in Halloween candy and Netflix instant watch, and it has been glorious. I focused on the work of the Coen brothers primarily (Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski). Brilliant directors, with such a rare sense of humor and unique perspective on filmmaking (cough pompous cough). But the film that really struck me during today's cinematic binge-fest was the 1989 revenge masterpiece, She-Devil, starring Meryl Streep, Rosanne, and Ed Begley Jr.
Wow, that is a truly awful poster. Disregard this, please.

It was a film I watched a lot on TV when I was younger, but I haven't seen it in probably ten years. I find it sad that it only has a 4.7 rating on imdb, when I think it is immensely satisfying on so many levels. The acting is a bit over the top, especially Meryl Streep as the downward-spiraling romance novelist (she's allowed to have one role that isn't destined for an Oscar nomination). But Roseanne's portrayal of Ruth Patchett, the maligned frump of a housewife should be legendary.

The bodice-rippers that Mary Fisher (Streep) writes provide fantasy and escapism for bored, neglected women like Ruth. For the most part, regular chick flicks serve the same purpose. What makes She-Devil rare is that it features an unlikely heroine who is unattractive (not just in a glasses and ponytail kind of way), surprisingly nefarious, and not above manipulation to reach her goals. This is not a Katherine Heigl movie. Roseanne, though she may have her flaws as an actress, represents a large portion of female movie-goers. She's a helluva lot more relatable than some 5'10' blonde, thin, perky bimbo. Through Ruth, viewers who may have also been wronged by a husband, boyfriend, or life in general, can live vicariously through her plotting and scheming to systematically destroy all that Bob (Begley Jr.) holds dear.

This is the face of America. Deal with it. Hawt.

During that process, Ruth discovers self-confidence, takes pride in her appearance, and develops a small army of women that society disregards as outcasts who don't fit the Mary Fisher mold. I've never personally experienced anything like Ruth's philandering, embezzling, and downright cruel husband. But when Ruth pulls the strings that annihilate Bob's home, career, and freedom (he ends up in prison for 18 months), I'm right there with her, cheering as hellish flames engulf the "she-devil." Now this is my kind of chick flick. And other than maybe Thelma and Louise (whose screenwriter I totally met!), I can't think of another movie that so perfectly demonstrates a true female revenge fantasy. (While I kind of enjoyed John Tucker Must Die, it really doesn't count.)

Ultimately, it's not the greatest movie in the world. But I LOVE it, and it just might be worth checking out if you're feeling kind of man-hatey at the moment.


  1. I love this movie to pieces. Thanks for pointing out that it's on Netflix view instant--I'm so excited now!

  2. Yay! I'm so glad I've found a fellow Vesta Rose devotee! I don't think I've ever known anyone else who'd even heard of it, even though it's Meryl Streep.

  3. Nobody's heard of it?? That's a travesty. I just noticed today that it's gone from the netflix instant queue on November 1st, so I'm going to watch it right now. Thanks so much again for the heads up, and thanks for the response!