Theatrical release poster
Directed bySusan Seidelman
Screenplay by
Based onThe Life and Loves of a She-Devil
by Fay Weldon
Produced by
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byCraig McKay
Music byHoward Shore
Distributed byOrion Pictures
Release date
  • December 8, 1989 (1989-12-08)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million
Box office$15.4 million (US)[1]

She-Devil is a 1989 American black comedy film directed by Susan Seidelman and written by Barry Strugatz and Mark R. Burns. It stars Meryl Streep, Roseanne Barr (in her film debut) and Ed Begley Jr.. 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 after her philandering husband leaves her and their children for glamorous, best-selling romance novelist Mary Fisher.

The second adaption of Weldon's novel, after the BBC television miniseries The Life and Loves of a She-Devil was broadcast in 1986, the film was shot amid the first season break of Barr's ABC sitcom Roseanne, in New York City throughout spring and summer 1989. For a while, Streep, who was one of the first actresses to read the script, 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 A Cry in the Dark (1988).

Produced by Orion Pictures, She-Devil was released on December 8, 1989, and grossed $15.5 million at the box office. Critics praised Barr's 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.


Frumpy, overweight wife and mother Ruth Patchett desperately attempts to please her accountant husband Bob, who is trying to boost his business. After Bob meets narcissistic romance novelist Mary Fisher at a dinner party, they begin an affair. Ruth, aware of the affair, confronts Bob while his parents are visiting, and Bob leaves her. Angry, Ruth vows revenge on him and Mary.

Ruth lists Bob's assets, representing his home, his family, his career and his freedom, planning to cross off each one after destroying it. With Bob away at Mary's and the kids at school, she procures Mary's financial records and overloads the electricity of the house, destroying the house in a massive explosion. She leaves the kids with Mary and Bob and tells him that she will not be returning.

Bob's second asset, his family, slowly deteriorates, as Mary's selfish refusal to learn how to be a mother causes tension in her relationship with Bob and begins to interfere with her ability to write her newest romance novel. Mary's new novel is loosely based on her romance with Bob, but her publisher considers it strange and off-putting because it focuses on laundry. Ruth takes a job at a nursing home under the pseudonym Vesta Rose, where she befriends Francine, Mary's foul-mouthed, estranged mother, and arranges for her to return to Mary's life at an inopportune moment. She also meets Hooper, a nurse who has worked for the nursing home for 22 years and put aside her earnings for a considerable life savings. Though Ruth horrifies Hooper by secretly switching the senior citizens' sedatives and mundane routines for vitamin and caffeine pills and enriching activities, she gains Hooper's trust by introducing her to desserts.

After Ruth is fired from the home for dumping water on Francine's bed to frame her as a bed-wetter and prevent her return, she and Hooper form a partnership and start an employment agency for downtrodden women who have been rejected by society and need a second chance. The agency is successful, and the women Ruth has helped assist her in getting revenge on Bob. Olivia, an attractive but ditsy young blonde, applies to the agency, and she finds her a position as Bob's secretary where he starts sleeping with her at the office. This causes Mary to become lonely and desperate at night, which makes Bob rebuff her advances. When Olivia proclaims her love for Bob, he immediately dumps and fires her. Olivia reveals to Ruth that Bob is a fraudster who cons money out of his clients by skimming interest off their accounts, then transferring it to his offshore account. Ruth hacks his files and exposes this to clients and the police by transferring $200,000 from Mary's account to a Swiss bank account in Bob's name, thus destroying his career.

As Mary is being interviewed for a puff piece by People, her mother reveals embarrassing secrets about her that effectively destroy her career. After Ruth sends her photographic evidence showing Bob bedding his secretaries, Mary, intent on reclaiming her former life, throws a party for her friends, which goes well until state troopers appear with a warrant for Bob's arrest. Bob's lawyer bribes a corrupt male judge to ensure a favorable verdict, and unknowingly informs Mary that Bob has been stealing from her account as well, causing her to leave Bob and sell her mansion. A woman who gained employment as a court clerk via Ruth's agency repays Ruth by reassigning Bob's case to an unbiased female judge. Bob is convicted of embezzlement and sentenced to 18 months in prison, thus destroying his fourth and final asset: his freedom. As Bob is taken away, he realizes that his greed, selfishness, and infidelity towards Ruth have left him with nothing.

Sixteen months later, Ruth and her children visit a greatly reformed Bob, who is now on considerably more amicable terms with Ruth following their divorce and looking forward to catching up with his children after his upcoming release from prison. Ruth concludes that although people can change as Bob has, not everyone does so. The final scene shows Ruth at a book signing for Mary's new autobiographical novel about her affair. Next in line after Ruth is a man whom Mary clearly tries to flirt with, indicating she has not completely changed her ways. The film ends with Ruth smiling as she walks down a busy street in Manhattan, accompanied by women from her firm.



The musical score for She-Devil was composed by Howard Shore. A soundtrack album was released on November 15, 1989, by Mercury Records.[2] Shore's score was later released in a limited edition of 1,000 copies by Music Box Records.[3]


The film holds a 40% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 20 reviews; the average rating is 4.53/10.[4]

Streep was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical.[5]

See also


  1. ^ "She-Devil at Box Office Mojo". Retrieved October 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "She-Devil Soundtrack (1989)". Soundtrack.Net. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  3. ^ "She-Devil - Howard Shore - CD". Music Box Records. Retrieved April 24, 2015.
  4. ^ "She-Devil (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 8, 2015.
  5. ^ "Meryl Streep | Golden Globes Awards". Golden Globes. Archived from the original on February 17, 2014. Retrieved October 8, 2015.