Saturday, June 4, 2011


I watched this 1989 film when it first came out, and then saw it again last weekend. It's still entertaining, maybe even more so - not only is it light and fast-paced, but now I enjoyed everything about Mary Fisher and her writing. She-Devil is a hilarious film.

Ruth Patchett is a plump, unattractive woman married to Bob, a handsome accountant whom she loves dearly. One evening, though, they both meet Mary Fisher at a party.

Mary Fisher is blond, slim, beautiful and a bestselling romance novelist. Everything about her life is built up around that persona; she lives in a castle-like house, dresses in pink and speaks in a breathy whisper. She’s like a Barbie doll come to life.

Sparks fly instantly, and Bob drives her home that night. Ruth tries to remain loyal and devoted during the affair that follows, but the situation in the Patchett household devolves. Finally Bob moves into Mary’s castle and tells Ruth that while he has four assets (his house, his family, his career and the freedom to do as he pleases), she’s a liability. And also a she-devil.

So Ruth behaves like one.

If you enjoyed the revenge plot of The First Wives Club, you’ll like this as well – and there are other parallels between the two films, including Ruth’s outreach efforts to other women, which pay off handsomely for her. I also loved her way of dealing with asset # 1, the house, but then again I’m a fan of creatively blowing things up.

And she locates an unexpected ally in Mary Fisher’s irascible mother, who’s never forgiven her daughter for sending her to a retirement home where she’s kept drugged and locked away. Mrs. Fisher is like a really nasty Sophia Petrillo.

Bob : You know, Mrs. Fisher, I haven’t told you what a wonderful daughter you’ve got. You did a terrific job of raising her.
Mrs. Fisher : You’d never know it, the way she treats me. Miss Famous Writer over there. You would think a forty-one-year-old woman would have learned to appreciate her mother.
Bob : Mary… I thought you were thirty-four.

The acting in this film – on everyone’s part – is delightfully over the top. Scenery is chewed with abandon. I especially liked the way Mary goes from soft-spoken and giggly to sharp-tongued and bitchy as her life slowly crumbles and she finds that being a man’s de facto wife is not quite the same as being his mistress. And the scene where her newest book flops thanks to all the stress was actually a little painful – especially when she sits at a table piled with copies and everyone ignores her.

Don’t expect realism from this film, but do expect a boisterous, amusing ride.


Kaz Augustin said...

The movie was based on novel "The life and loves of a she-devil" written by Fay Weldon and published way back in 1983. I remember seeing the British version of the novel before I saw the American one (with Barr and Streep). The British one, from memory, was truer to the novel and a lot more darkly psychological, but I enjoyed the lighter American version too.

Thanks, Marian. I just went to my bookshelves and pulled this one for a re-read.

Marian Perera said...

I thought I read somewhere that in the novel, Ruth undergoes plastic surgery at the end to make her look more like Mary Fisher. That probably stepped up the dark psychology side of it, but the Ruth of the American film worked better for me. She wasn't a looker at the end, but she was attractive in her own way and quietly confident.

Regardless, rereading books we enjoy is always a pleasure. :)