US Release Date: 06-11-2004
Directed by: Frank Oz
- Nicole Kidman, as
- Joanna Eberhart
- Bette Midler, as
- Bobbie Markowitz
- Matthew Broderick, as
- Walter Eberhart
- Christopher Walken, as
- Dale Coba
- Faith Hill, as
- Sarah Sunderson
- Glenn Close, as
- Dr. Emily Francher
- Roger Bart, as
- Roger Bannister
- Jon Lovitz as
- Dave Markowe
Bette Midler in The Stepford Wives.
This movie begins promisingly with some laughs. Nicole Kidman is funny as a driven New York television producer who gets unexpectedly fired and winds up moving to the burbs with her husband (Matthew Broderick). The community of Stepford is like a women's magazine from the 50s brought to life. The lawns are all immaculately manicured and the wives work out wearing dresses, strings of pearls and high heels. The men are all members of a mysterious club.
The-fish-out-of-water laughs work for a while. Joanna Eberhart attends a neighborhood picnic dressed in a tiny black Manhattan-career-woman dress while all around her the other women and girls wear flowery sun dresses and polka dots. She meets Bobbie Markowitz, a writer played by Bette Midler. The two women share the fact that they don't look, dress or act like the other Stepford wives.
Unfortunately once the mystery of Stepford begins to unravel so does the movies' ability to make sense. It seems at first that, like the original 70s television movie, the Stepford wives are in reality robots. The real wives were all murdered. The movie certainly makes this appear to be the case. In one scene one of the wives suffers a breakdown at a social function during which sparks shoot from her head. In another scene Matthew Broderick is shown the men's secret by having a husband demonstrate that his wife doubles as an ATM by extracting money from her mouth. Joanna even sees her robotic double at one point and Bette Midler, after being Stepfordized, doesn't feel her hand being burned on the stovetop.
Then for no apparent reason, except maybe some nervous studio execs wanted a cheerier ending, we learn abruptly that the women aren't robots after all. They've just had computer chips implanted in their brains. Huh?
In terms of editing and story continuity The Stepford Wives is easily one of the most amateurish big budget productions ever to come out of Hollywood.
Matthew Broderick and Nicole Kidman in The Stepford Wives.
I heard a statistic recently that said men whose wives make more money than them are five times more likely to cheat, than men who make a comparable salary or more. Some men still yearn for that old fashioned stay at home cookie baking wife, and there is nothing wrong with that. Some woman want that as well. The subject is ripe with discussion.
The Stepford Wives however, is not up to the intellectual challenge. It has a few throw away lines such as when Broderick says to Kidman, "Only high-powered, neurotic, castrating, Manhattan career bitches wear black. Is that what you want to be?" and she responds, "Ever since I was a little girl." Later Kidman complains that, "All of the women are always busy and perfect and smiling, and all of the men are always happy." and Broderick asks, "And that's a problem because?"
The movie has a few laughs, such as when a gay character says that a gay Republican is like a gay with a bad haircut. Midler has some snarky comments, "All the women around here are perfect sex-kitten bimbos. All the men are drooling nerds. Doesn't that seem strange?" My favorite joke is the name of Midler's book dedicated to her mother, "I Love You; Please Die."
As Patrick wrote, The Stepford Wives does not make any sense with the robot/brain implant plot line. With so many mood enhancing drugs on the market, this movie missed a great chance for social commentary. How many people already drug themselves or their kids so as to better get along with others? Men who would drug their wives to be the obedient spouses they desire, is not too hard to imagine. The Stepford Wives missed a great chance for some really good social commentary.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks Pictures (2004)