In my favorite scene from The War of the Roses, Oliver Rose is laying out his proposal for an equitable distribution of the dream home he and his wife, Barbara, have been fighting over in a vicious divorce.
Oliver’s attorney, Gavin D’Amato, barely raises and eyebrow when his client whips out an oversized chart delineating color-coded territories in the newly-zoned home.
“The red areas are hers,” Oliver begins.
“The yellow areas are mine,” he continues.
“Green is neutral.”
At this point, he pauses to allow the brilliance of his solution to sink in.
Sounding like Douglas MacArthur on the brink of a nervous breakdown, Oliver (played by Michael Douglas) is at the precipice of physical and emotional exhaustion– only he doesn’t know it. While Gavin (played by Danny DeVito) manages to keep his professional cool in spite of the mounting alarm bells in his head: nodding sympathetically as his client presses on to the big finish.
“The kitchen was difficult, but Barbara came up with the idea of time allotment.“
Although Gavin has had the advantage of being an impartial observer looking in and carefully maintained his mask as therapist-talking-to-crazy-person until now, Oliver’s last bit about time allotments forces Gavin to break character and ask:
“This seems rational to you both?“
I find myself asking the same question every time the Middle East conflict dominates headlines, as it did last night when Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the annual General Assembly of the United Nations.
Armed with a graphic of a bomb that looked like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon, Netanyahu dissected the illustration with a red line to demonstrate the point at which he would shut down Iran’s nuclear program. The theatrics were an obvious attempt to garner worldwide attention, and they worked.
But when a statesman resorts to tactics that resemble those of Wile E. Coyote in pursuit of the Roadrunner, alarm bells go off in my head because there is nothing funny about nuclear annihilation nor the hearts broken and hopes dashed as lives on all sides of this dispute continue to be cut short through violence.
Which bring to mind Gavin’s other unforgettable observation from The War of the Roses, when he reminds Oliver:
“There’s no winning! Only degrees of losing!“