PlotRuth Patchett (Roseanne Barr) is a frumpy, overweight housewife and mother, who desperately tries to please her attractive accountant husband Bob (Ed Begley, Jr.). After Bob meets romance novelist Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep) at a dinner party, they begin having an affair; Mary also hires him as her accountant. Though aware of the affair, Ruth initially lives in denial (believing it to be a fling which Bob will leave) and continues to take care of her two children, Nicolette (Elisebeth Peters) and Andrew (Bryan Larkin), and doing other household chores. However, Ruth soon begins to feel ragged after trying to prepare for Bob's parents' visit, culminating with Ruth finding Andrew's dead gerbil in a casserole pot. After Ruth confronts him about his affair in front of his parents, Bob decides to pack up his things and leave Ruth with the kids, calling her a liability and telling her she is a bad mother, a lousy wife, a terrible cook, and has the appearance of a "she-devil." Now at her breaking point, Ruth vows to get revenge on both Bob and Mary. Ruth writes a list of Bob's four assets: his home, his family, his career, and his freedom, crossing off each one as it is destroyed.
With Bob away at Mary's mansion by the sea and the kids at school, she sets the house on fire through various means including tossing two lit cigarettes into a waste basket, microwaving aerosol cans, and overloading an electrical outlet. Ruth takes the family dog, a framed photo of the Patchett family, and - significantly for Ruth's plan of revenge - Bob's file on Mary's finances before leaving as the house explodes in a massive fireball. Ruth then drops the children and dog off at Mary's mansion to live with their father. After seeing in Mary's file that Mary pays for her mother to live in an expensive nursing home, Ruth takes a job there under the pseudonym Vesta Rose, and forms friendships with Mary's estranged mother, Mrs. Fisher (Sylvia Miles), and diminutive co-worker Nurse Hooper (Linda Hunt). As part of her plan, Ruth gets Mary's mother thrown out of the home, and the latter moves in with her daughter, much to Mary's chagrin.
Ruth later partners with Hooper to start the Vesta Rose Employment Agency, which helps downtrodden, socially rejected women find good jobs in exchange for them unwittingly helping Ruth in her quest for vengeance against Bob; one such example is Olivia Honey (Maria Pitillo), whom Bob hires as his secretary. Though Bob falls for Olivia at first sight, he fires her after she confesses her love for him; a heartbroken Olivia reveals to Ruth that Bob wires interest from his clients' accounts into an offshore Swiss bank account. Both women break into Bob's firm to wire larger amounts of money from Bob's clients' accounts into Bob's Swiss account, making his embezzlement more visible to his clients. Ruth then reports Bob's crimes to the IRS.
Meanwhile, Mary's life crumbles around her, as her relationship with Bob grows distant, she has a hard time keeping Bob's children under control (since Bob is unwilling to enforce discipline with them), is forced to do various chores by herself, as her maid Ute (Susan Willis) is busy with the increased workload from the Patchett family, and her butler Garcia (A Martinez) is unwilling to help out, and Mrs. Fisher reveals Mary's life-long secrets to a reporter for People magazine while the latter is on the phone. Compounding matters for Mary is the poor reception of her new novel titled "Love in the Rinse Cycle," and learning of Bob's affairs behind her back. However, upon seeing Ute walk off the job and everyone partying around, she finally decides to regain control of her life; she fires Garcia and lays down the law with Bob, the children, and her mother.
Mary throws a party that evening to cheer herself up and also spend time with her friends, but police officers show up during the party with a warrant for Bob's arrest. After Bob's lawyer unknowingly reveals Bob's embezzling from her, Mary promptly dumps Bob and fires him as her accountant. Bob and his lawyer earlier tried to make a secret deal with one judge, but the plan falls apart as another judge takes the case (as a result of Ruth calling in a favor from another one of her clients). Bob is convicted and sentenced to eighteen months in prison, thus destroying his last asset - his freedom.
Eighteen months pass, and Bob is released after fully serving his sentence, having greatly reformed and looking forward to spending time with his family, while Mary sold her mansion and released a new novel "Trust and Betrayal: A Docu-novel of Love, Money and Skepticism," which proves to be a critical and commercial success. Ruth appears at the book signing and asks the autograph to be made out to "Ruth." Mary experiences a brief lapse of déjà vu, but shrugs it off. Next in line after Ruth is Alain, a handsome Frenchman whom Mary flirts with, showing that she is back to her old ways.
- Roseanne Barr as Ruth Patchett
- Meryl Streep as Mary Fisher
- Ed Begley, Jr. as Bob
- Linda Hunt as Hooper
- Sylvia Miles as Mrs. Fisher
- Elisebeth Peters as Nicolette Patchett
- Bryan Larkin as Andy Patchett
- A Martinez as Garcia
- Maria Pitillo as Olivia Honey
- Mary Louise Wilson as Mrs. Trumper
- Susan Willis as Ute
- Jack Gilpin as Larry
- Robin Leach as Himself
- Nitchie Barrett as Bob's Secretary
- June Gable as Realtor