Ruthless People.

Hello everyone and welcome back to another #moviemonday. It is the last week of November and I am really looking forward to next month because I am going to be getting into the Christmas spirit and concentrating on Christmas movies for the next few weeks. 

According to my Instagram poll, my followers prefer Christmas over Halloween so I am hoping that you will all enjoy the festive content that is coming up. If you don’t already follow me on Instagram (@katelovesliterature), then you should consider it as it is where I keep everyone updated about what is coming up here on Katelovesliterature.com. It is also lots of fun, so think about checking it out. 

Today I am talking about Ruthless People

Let’s dive into Movie Monday. 

Ruthless People was released in 1986 and the movie was directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. 

If you are a fan of Bette Midler then I think you have to watch this movie if you have not already seen it. She is a brilliant comedic actress. 

Plot. 

The plot of Ruthless People is really straightforward, and really funny. The movie has been described as a dark comedy, and while I do agree with that, I would also call it a comedy of errors. This is another one of those movies where I think that the audience will root for the characters who are technically the ‘bad guys’. 

The movie follows Ken and Sandy Kessler as they decide to get revenge on their boss for stealing their ideas and life savings by kidnapping his wife Barbara. They have no intention of hurting Barbara, they simply want to get ransom money from Sam Stone, but it turns out that Sam has no intention of paying the ransom because he was planning to kill his wife himself so that he could have her family’s fortune and live with his mistress Carol. Carol discovers that Sam was planning to kill his wife, so she attempts to blackmail him so that she can have a wealthy life with her boyfriend Earl. So the entire plot is one big farce and Barbara, played by the wonderfully funny Bette Midler, is at the heart of it. When she learns what her husband had planned, she becomes determined to get revenge herself so in a brilliantly funny turn of events, she ends up in cahoots with her kidnappers. If you want to see how it all plays out, go and watch the movie. 

Characters. 

Usually when I talk about movies, I discuss the protagonists and the antagonists but in Ruthless People, I think that everyone is as bad as each other, which makes for a wonderfully dark comedy. 

Barbara Stone is perhaps one of the most annoying people on the planet. Does this mean that she deserved to be kidnapped? Of course not, but Bette Midler understood the assignment. Barbara makes life hell for her amateur kidnappers who are clearly in way over their heads. The over the top plot points combined with all of the movie’s twists and turns makes for a really funny movie. 

Ken and Sandy are out of their depth and it shows. All they wanted was their life savings back. They did not expect that Sam would not pay the ransom. What was supposed to be a quick and easy plan rapidly speeds out of their control, and watching them flounder is delightful. Obviously it is wrong to kidnap someone, there is no question about that, but within the context of this absurd movie, you can see that Ken and Sandy are good people, and oddly enough I think that audiences will root for them, especially when Barbara joins forces with them. 

I even like Carol the mistress. She knows her role and she plays it well. When Carol discovers that Sam was actually planning on killing Barbara, she is horrified, but true to her role in this movie, she decides that she is going to blackmail him and I will be honest, I think audiences may root for her too. 

The movie’s only truly bad person is Sam Stone. He is the actual antagonist of the movie. He is the one who had the malicious intention to kill his wife, take her fortune, and run away with his mistress. When he came home one day to find her kidnapped, he was delighted that kidnappers had done the work for him. He is thankful, and throughout the entire movie he disobeys the ransom requests hoping that each time, the kidnappers will actually kill his wife. This should be horrifying, it is horrifying, but Danny DeVito plays his part so well that he manages to make Sam Stone’s exasperation about his wife still being alive very funny. 

There is a reason why this movie is described as a dark comedy. It is dark, it is absurd, it is full of twists and turns. It is over the top, and that is what makes it brilliant. 

Themes.

The movie’s main themes are revenge and greed. This is a revenge movie. The characters are driven by either revenge or greed. Sam Stone is driven by greed. He stole Sandy’s ideas, he stole Sandy and Ken’s life savings. He wants his wife’s family fortune, so much so that he is willing to kill her for it. His entire life’s focus is money. Sandy and Ken do what they do because they want to get revenge on Sam. Carol blackmails Sam because she wants money, so she too is driven by greed. When Barbara finds out about Sam’s intentions, she too becomes driven by revenge because she is determined to get back at him, so this is a movie that is full of people doing outrageous things because they want either money or revenge. 

This movie is described as a dark comedy, and that is exactly what it is, a dark comedy. I don’t want to analyse it to death because that is not the point. I could easily choose to discuss this movie in a much deeper way, and talk about how the use of satire and dark comedy could be suggested to be a tool to demonstrate how corrupting money and greed can be. This dark comedy shows the hideous lengths people will go to because of their desire for money and because of their thirst for revenge. I think this is a movie that highlights how important context is, because in a different movie, the idea that a husband would be delighted that his wife has been kidnapped could be presented as a horror or a thriller, because it is a dark concept. It is horrifying to think that Sam Stone was hoping that his wife would meet such a horrible end, and a plot like this could be an entirely different movie if it was presented differently, but it wasn’t. Ruthless People was presented as a very dark, outrageous comedy and that is what it is. It is absurd, but that is the point. 

Structure. 

Ruthless People is only 94 minutes long, so a lot happens in a short space of time. There are a lot of moving parts to this movie as it features an ensemble cast of characters and all of them are scheming. It moves very quickly, and there are a lot of twists and turns but I don’t think that it gets too confusing as I didn’t feel lost at any point. 

Final Thoughts. 

It was my Mam that suggested that I should watch Ruthless People because I had never seen it and she thought I would like it. I am so glad she suggested it because I really enjoyed it and I would highly recommend it. It is not too long. The cast is fantastic. The story is absurdly funny, and my advice to anyone who is thinking about watching this movie would be to simply lean into the absurd and embrace it. 

This has been Movie Monday. I hope you enjoyed it. Have you seen Ruthless People? What is your favourite Bette Midler movie? Let me know. 

I hope you all have a great week. 

Kate xo. 

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