The Stepford Wives (2004 film)
|The Stepford Wives|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Oz|
|Produced by||Scott Rudin|
Donald De Line
Edgar J. Scherick
|Written by||Paul Rudnick|
|Based on||The Stepford Wives|
by Ira Levin
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Edited by||Jay Rabinowitz|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$103.3 million|
The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American science-fiction black comedy film. It was directed by Frank Oz from a screenplay by Paul Rudnick and stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill and Glenn Close. The film is based on the Ira Levin novel The Stepford Wives (filmed the first time in 1975). The 2004-version grossed $102,000,000 worldwide on a $90,000,000 budget.
Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is a successful reality television executive producer, whose career suddenly ends due to a controversial show. With her husband, Walter (Matthew Broderick), and their two children, she moves from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Fairfield County, Connecticut, suburb.
Joanna becomes friends with Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler), a writer and recovering alcoholic, and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), a flamboyant gay man who has moved to town with his long-time partner, Jerry (David Marshall Grant). Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger witness an incident in which Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill), violently dances and then collapses.
Joanna argues with Walter about the incident with Sarah. He tells her that her children barely know her, their marriage is falling apart, and she is so domineering that people literally want to kill her. Walter tries to walk out of their marriage, but Joanna appeases him by trying to fit in with the other Stepford wives.
Joanna changes her look and tries to become a housewife. Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger go to Sarah's home to check up on her. Sarah has left the door open and they hear her upstairs, screaming in ecstasy while having sex with her husband. As they scramble to sneak out, they find a remote control labeled SARAH. They do not notice that pressing a button causes Sarah's breasts to enlarge and makes her walk backwards robotically. They run away to Bobbie's messy, disorderly home. Roger confides to them that he and his husband are having marital issues and went to Stepford to get better like Bobbie (court order), Joanna (as a last resort) and their husbands.
The Stepford women appear extremely vapid and shallow; in the Stepford book club, their "story" is a catalogue of Christmas, Chanukah collectibles, and decoration tips. In the Men's Association, Walter tells the other husbands that Joanna is planning to change. They show Walter that Ted's wife is a robot.
Joanna and Bobbie sneak into the men's association to spy on the husbands. They discover a hall filled with family portraits and are caught by Roger. Roger tells them that there is nothing wrong and the women leave. The next day, Joanna and Bobbie discover Roger's favorite flamboyant clothes, playbills, and a photo of Viggo Mortensen in the trash.
Jerry tells them to meet him in the town hall and they see Roger, apparently running for State Senate, with a bland, conventional look and conformist personality. Joanna wants to leave and Walter agrees with her, saying that they will go the next day. At night, a robo-dog gives her a remote with her name. Joanne goes into Walter's study and discovers that all the Stepford wives were once working women in high power positions and that a champion terrier vanished and is believed to be the robo-dog.
The next day, Joanna visits Bobbie and she notices that her house is spotless. Bobbie is now blonde, dressed in a Sunday dress, and blends in with the other Stepford wives. Bobbie says that she is a whole new person and the most important thing is her cookbook. While telling Joanna that she can help her change, Bobbie puts her hand over the stove's burner and does not even notice.
Joanna wants to leave and calls the camp for her kids, but she finds out that they were taken by Walter. She goes back to the Men's Association and finds that in her family picture, she now looks like a Stepford wife. Walter has gathered with the other husbands and confesses that after marrying Joanna, he has felt undermined and all the husbands feel the same. Mike (Christopher Walken) shows how they insert nanochips into their wives' brains and turn them into Stepford wives. The men corner Joanna and Walter and force them toward the transformation room, but before Joanna enters, she makes a final appeal by asking whether the new wives really mean it when they tell their husbands that they love them.
The next scene shows all of the Stepford wives, including Joanna, now blonde and dressed in Sunday dresses, at the grocery store.
With Joanna and Walter as the guests of honor, Stepford hosts a formal ball. During the festivities, Joanna distracts Mike and entices him into the garden, while Walter slips away. Walter returns to the transformation room, where he destroys the software that makes the women obedient. Walter returns to the ball, where the baffled husbands are cornered by their vengeful wives. Walter reveals that Joanna never received the microchip implant because her argument during the struggle had won him over. Out of his love for and loyalty to the human being he married, he joined her plan to infiltrate Stepford, with her pretending to be a cyborg. Mike threatens Walter, but before Mike can attack, Joanna hits Mike with a candlestick, decapitating him and revealing that he is a robot, and not even partially biological.
Claire (Glenn Close) explains that she created Stepford because she, too, was a bitter, career-minded woman; in her case, a tired brain surgeon. When she discovered that Mike was having an affair with her research assistant, she murdered them in a jealous rage. When Joanna wonders aloud why Claire did not simply make the men into cyborgs, she replies that she planned to turn the whole community into cyborgs. Claire then electrocutes herself by kissing Mike's severed robotic head.
Six months later, Larry King is interviewing Joanna (now with dyed blonde hair), Bobbie, and Roger, with Walter also in attendance. They have all met with success; Joanna has made a documentary, Bobbie has written a book of poetry, and Roger broke up with Jerry and won his State Senate seat as an Independent. Before ending the interview, King asks about the fate of the other husbands of Stepford. Roger reveals that they are still in Stepford. Bobbie agrees by explaining that they are under house arrest and are being retrained to become better people. The closing scene of the film reveals that the irate wives have taken over Stepford. They are forcing their husbands to atone for their crimes by making them do housework and shop for them.
- Nicole Kidman as Joanna Eberhart
- Matthew Broderick as Walter Kresby
- Bette Midler as Bobbie Markowitz
- Christopher Walken as Mike Wellington
- Glenn Close as Claire Wellington
- Roger Bart as Roger Bannister
- Faith Hill as Sarah Sunderson
- Jon Lovitz as Dave Markowitz
- Matt Malloy as Herb Sunderson
- David Marshall Grant as Jerry Harmon
- Kate Shindle as Beth Peters
- Lorri Bagley as Charmaine Van Sant
- Robert Stanton as Ted Van Sant
- Mike White as Hank
- KaDee Strickland as Tara
- Larry King as Himself
- Meredith Vieira as host of Balance of Power
- Billy Bush as host of I Can Do Better
- Mary Beth Peil as Helen Devlin
- Dylan Hartigan as Joanna and Walter's son
Reportedly, there were problems on-set between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close and Roger Bart. In a 2003 interview, Oz stated "Tension on the set? Absolutely! In every movie I do, there's tension. That's the whole point. And working people hard, that's exactly what they expect me to do... Bette has been under a lot of stress lately... She made the mistake of bringing her stress on the set."
In a 2007 interview with Ain't It Cool News, Oz's take on the film was "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."
In a 2005 interview, Matthew Broderick stated, "Making that film wasn't enjoyable. It was nobody's fault, but my part was not terribly interesting... It was not a thrilling film. I would hate it if it were my last."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 26%, based on 172 reviews with an average rating of 4.65/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "In exchanging the chilling satire of the original into mindless camp, this remake has itself become Stepford-ized."
- Rolling Stone said, "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen."
- Entertainment Weekly said, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality."
- 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."
Some critics were more receptive to the film. Roger Ebert called Paul Rudnick's screenplay "rich with zingers" and gave the film three stars. However, in the "Worst Movies of 2004" episode of At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper, he admitted that, while he gave the film "thumbs up", it wouldn't be "the first movie that [he] would defend."
The U.S. opening weekend's gross was a respectable $21,406,781; however, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent over one-third of the film's domestic gross of $59,484,742. The film grossed $42,428,452 internationally; its production budget was an estimated $100,000,000, plus a further $46,000,000 for marketing and distribution costs.
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- "The Stepford Wives". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. June 11, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "5th Annual Golden Trailer Awards". Golden Trailer Awards. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
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