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The Stepford Wives

The Stepford Wives theatrical poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by Scott Rudin
Written by Novel:
Ira Levin
Screenplay:
Paul Rudnick
Starring Nicole Kidman
Matthew Broderick
Bette Midler
Christopher Walken
Faith Hill
Glenn Close
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Rob Hahn
Editing by Jay Rabinowitz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures (USA)
DreamWorks (non-USA)[1]
Release date(s) June 11, 2004
Running time 93 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Gross revenue $101,913,194

The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American black comedy/science fiction film. The film is a remake of the 1975 film of the same name; both films are based on the Ira Levin novel The Stepford Wives. While the original film and book had tremendous cultural impact, the remake was marked by behind-the-scenes infighting, was dismissed by critics, lost ~$40M at the box office[2][3][4], and was strongly disliked by its stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler due to their participation in the troubled production.

The film was directed by Frank Oz with a screenplay by Paul Rudnick and stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill and Glenn Close.

Contents

Plot

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Summary

Joanna Eberhart (Kidman) is a successful Manhattan television executive who produces reality television shows, in which women often get the better of men. She is fired after her latest project, "I Can Do Better", results in one of the jilted men going on a shooting spree, and she has a nervous breakdown. With her husband Walter (Broderick) and their two children, they move from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Connecticut suburb, for a change of scenery.

Joanna becomes friends with Bobbie Markowitz (Midler), a writer and recovering alcoholic, and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), a flamboyant gay man who has moved to town with his longtime partner, Jerry (David Marshall Grant). Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger witness an incident in which one of the Stepford wives, Sarah Sunderson (Hill), violently dances and collapses to the floor, at which point a man named Mike (Walken) arrives and artfully directs all men to crowd around Sarah so that neither Joanna, Bobbie, nor Roger can see what occurs, although Joanna sees Mike touching Sarah and she puts off sparks. Several people carry Sarah away, while Claire (Close), the town's leading lady, tries to distract Joanna by informing her that Mike essentially runs Stepford and says that he is her husband.

Joanna argues with Walter over Sarah, until finally, he loses his temper and yells at her, saying that her children barely know her, their marriage is falling apart, and that she is so cold and offensive that people want to kill her. Unhappy, she apologizes, and agrees to try to be more like the ladies of Stepford. The next day, as she cleans the house and tries wearing more makeup, she talks with Bobbie and Roger, and they decide to go and see Sarah Sunderson and tend to her. Entering the house, they hear her having loud, passionate sex with her husband. They find a remote control with the words SARAH carved into it. Frightened, they retreat to Bobbie's house, where Joanna suggests that they seriously try to live in Stepford. During this time, the Stepford women are seen to be extremely vapid and shallow; in the Stepford book club, their 'provocative' and 'inspiring' story is a catalogue of Christmas and Chanukah collectibles and decoration tips. Meanwhile, Walter has been bonding with the Stepford Men's Association, and plays games which result in Ted, one of the Stepford Husbands, owing Walter $20. He gets the money by summoning his wife and having her put a credit card in her mouth and spit out 20 one dollar bills, revealing that she is, in fact, a robot, like the other women.

One evening, Walter and Mr. Markowitz go off to the Men's Association with Roger Bannister and Jerry, but Joanna and Bobbie hire a sitter and follow them. Sneaking around the Mens' Association, they find a long line of family portraits. They accidentally cause some noise, and Roger is sent out to see what's doing. He, however, does not betray Joanna and Bobbie, and says that there is nothing illicit going on it the Men's Association. Joanna and Bobbie leave. Roger is directed through one door by the other men, and he finds that it leads onto a balcony overlooking the main hall of the Men's Association. Looking down, he sees something incomprehensible, but simply turns to the camera and, worried, utters softly "Jerry?" The next day, he is completely transformed, running for town office as a conservative gay Republican.

Terrified, Joanna informs Walter that she and Bobbie are so terrified that they are packing up and moving. Walter apologizes, saying that if she's so miserable, they can leave tomorrow. She thanks him. That night, she is awakened by their robotic dog bringing her a bone, but on closer examination, she finds that it is, in fact, a golden remote control like Sarah's, with the word JOANNA carved into it. In horror, she goes online and learns that the women in Stepford used to be scientists, engineers, and judges. She runs to see Bobbie first thing the next morning, and is horrified to see that Bobbie has become fawning and stupid as well.

The inhuman nature of these new Stepford spouses is revealed to Joanna when she attempts to confront the newly-transformed Bobbie, who unknowingly places her hand on a lit stove, but does not react to the flame. Joanna attempts to flee, only to discover that her children have been taken hostage by the men of Stepford. She storms the Stepford Men's Club, angrily demanding her children be returned, and is entrapped by the men who have been lying in wait for her. They explain that their wives, when they were important scientists and engineers, reduced the men to the level of support systems, and, enraged, they dragged their wives underground, implanted computer chips in their brains and gave them plastic surgery and drugs to make them beautiful and pleasant. Joanna is forced into the transformation room with her husband, Walter, after which Joanna calmly purchases groceries alongside the rest of the Stepford wives, having apparently become one of them.

Soon after, Stepford hosts a formal ball to celebrate the full assimilation of the town, with Joanna and Walter as guests of honor. During the festivities, Joanna distracts Mike, the apparent leader of Stepford, and entices him into the garden while Walter slips away. Walter returns to the transformation room where he destroys the software that controls the microchips, whereupon all the Stepford wives revert to their original personalities.

When Walter returns to the ball, a crisis has broken out between the baffled husbands and their vengeful wives. Joanna and Walter reveal that Joanna had never been transformed but had instead pretended to be in order to assist in the destruction of Stepford. Mike threatens Walter, but before he can attack him, Joanna strikes him with a candlestick, decapitating him, and revealing that he is indeed the only real and complete robot. Distraught over the loss of her Stepford husband, Claire reveals that she was the one who had created Stepford as a refuge from the evils of the world in a fit of despair after discovering the real Mike had been having an affair. Claire accidentally electrocutes herself with the remains of her Stepford husband, and the irate wives take over Stepford and force their husbands to atone for their crimes by placing them under house arrest, and making them complete many of the same banal domestic tasks they had forced the women to do previously.

Cast

Production

This film is notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule. The tension started when both John Cusack and Joan Cusack, originally slated to star in supporting roles, pulled out of the project and were replaced by Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler, respectively. After filming was initially completed, several changes were made to the new script, which created a number of plot holes, and the cast was called back for reshoots. Reports of problems on-set between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler were rampant in the press.[citation needed] Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project. In recent interviews, Kidman, Matthew Broderick and producer Scott Rudin have all expressed regret for participating in the film.[citation needed]

In an interview with Ain't It Cool, Frank Oz's take on the film was "I fucked up... I had too much money, and I was too responsible and concerned for Paramount. I was too concerned for the producers. And I didn't follow my instincts."[5]

The majority of the film was shot in Darien, Connecticut and New Canaan, Connecticut.

Critical reception

The film was largely panned by the critics; Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 26%[6]

  • Rolling Stone said, "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen."[7]
  • Entertainment Weekly said, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality."[8]
  • The New York Times said "the movie never lives up to its satiric potential, collapsing at the end into incoherence and wishy-washy, have-it-all sentimentality."[9]

There were also receptive critics. Roger Ebert, for example, called Paul Rudnick's screenplay "rich with zingers", and gave the film three stars. Visitors to his website were less charitable, affording it an average of only two stars.[10] However, in the "Worst Movies of 2004" episode of Ebert And Roeper, he admitted that, while he gave the film "thumbs up," it wouldn't be "the first movie that [he] would defend."

Also, the film's teaser won several Golden Trailer Awards, in the categories of "Summer 2004 Blockbuster" and "Most Original", as well as "Best of Show".[11]

Box office

The film was not successful. The US opening weekend's gross was a respectable $21,406,781; however, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent over a third of the film's domestic gross of $59,484,742.[2] The film grossed $42,428,452 internationally; its production budget was an estimated $100 million plus a further $46 million for marketing and distribution costs.[3]

For the year, the film barely cracked the top 50 grossing movies, finishing well behind Barbershop 2, Christmas with the Kranks, and Garfield: The Movie, and grossing just over one-tenth as much as the year's luminaries such as Shrek 2 and The Passion of the Christ.[4]

See also

References

External links


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