Written by: Paul Rudnick, based on the novel by Ira Levin
Directed by: Frank Oz
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, and Christopher Walken
- Commentary by Director Oz
- Deleted/Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel
- A Perfect World: The Making of The Stepford Wives
- Stepford: A Definition
- Stepford: The Architects
- The Stepford Wives
- The Stepford Husbands
Released by: Paramount
My Advice: Skip It
[ad#longpost]Joanne Eberhart (Kidman) is not happy since she was fired from her high powered job and had a nervous breakdown. So her husband, Walter (Broderick), moves the family to Stepford, Connecticut to turn a new leaf. Stepford is a perfect little town where everyone is happy, especially the wives. They, led by Claire Wellington (Close), make sure everything is happy, beautiful, and most importantly perfect. Joanne is looking to make a go of this new life to help her marriage but the wives are completely devoted to domestic bliss. They have no life outside of their home and husband. “Normal” Stepford residents Bobbie Markowitz (Midler) and Roger Bannister also feel that the wives are more like robots than actual people. When Bobbie and Roger get with the Stepford program and even Walter seeming to go along with the rest of the Stepford Men’s Association, led by Claire’s husband Mike (Walken), can Joanne escape for becoming one of The Stepford Wives?
Stepford. A name to conjure with. A monstrous regiment of faux females, devoid of ego and kept by men who are more interested in what their wives can do for them instead of who they are. A terrifying concept for women just beginning to find out what they were capable of outside of their traditional roles. However, conditions have changed since Ira Levin penned his feminist thriller. Nowadays, it’s not about women wanting to work outside the home, it’s about women having to work to maintain their family’s middle class lifestyle. Now women have to deal with both the stresses of home and work where showing any weakness is seen as a betrayal of the woman’s movement while doing too well makes you out to being a castrating bitch who ignored her family. There is quite a lot a remake of The Stepford Wives could play with. It’s a shame that the movie dropped the ball so completely.
I can see why they went the comedy route with the story. Everyone in the audience knows what Stepford is all about so making the film a thriller would be a very tall order. But the comedy is so broad and obvious, it lacks any sort of bite. Instead of a satire on men and women and what they and society expects from each other, we get jokes about pine cones on vibrators and expanding boobs by remote control. The only swipes seem to be cribbed from a Saturday Night Live skit about Martha Stewart. What’s really irritating is that there are glimpses of something deeper. One scene has the three outcasts (Kidman, Midler, Roger Bart) discussing the various anti-depressives they’re taking. That seems to indicate that people already take serious measures to be happy and normal, so how far is it to becoming Stepford, really? However, we don’t get depth, we get cheap laughs aimed at the lowest common denominator.
Of course, when the movie is extensively reshot, leaving massive plot holes, the situation becomes even worse. The major problem is the confusion over the Stepford wives. Some parts of the movies have them as actual robots but other parts just have them with mind control chips. This is probably the result of rewrites brought on by focus group disapproval. Even the director Frank Oz said in a Ain’t It Cool News interview, “I fucked up.” While I agree that Oz was too taken with the look of the film, most of the blame can be placed at screenwriter Paul Rudnick’s feet for a story missing social comment or real laughs.
The extras was just as bland as Stepford. You get the typical deleted scenes, gag reel, and so called special features that don’t really add anything to your understanding or appreciation of the film. The commentary by Oz makes you feel sorry for the man. He constantly talks about how much he had to cut and reshoot. Days of filming the stars square dancing was shortened because audiences didn’t find it funny enough. A CGI heavy scene where Kidman confronts the Stepfordized Midler was cut because it wasn’t funny enough. The opening and the closing sequences were replaced because… well you get the idea. Unlike a lot of other remakes, The Stepford Wives had potential. Shame it was replaced by a soulless Hollywood machine.