The Stepford Wives (2004 film)

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The Stepford Wives
Stepford wives ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Oz
Produced by Scott Rudin
Donald De Line
Edgar J. Scherick
Gabriel Grunfeld
Written by Paul Rudnick
Based on The Stepford Wives 
by Ira Levin
Starring Nicole Kidman
Matthew Broderick
Bette Midler
Christopher Walken
Roger Bart
Faith Hill
Glenn Close
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Rob Hahn
Edited by Jay Rabinowitz
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
(United States)
DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
June 11, 2004
Running time
93 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million
Box office $102,001,626

The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American sci-fi dramedy 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 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 book and film had tremendous cultural impact, the remake was marked by infighting behind the scenes, poor reviews by many critics, and a financial loss of approximately $40 million at the box office. The film was also heavily reworked in editing and many blame that for the film's failure.[1][2][3]


Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is a successful reality television executive producer. She is fired after her latest project, a show called I Can Do Better, where spouses choose between each other or prostitutes, results in one of the jilted men going on a shooting spree and attempts to assassinate Joanna, and she has a nervous breakdown. With her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two children, they move from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet 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. A man named Mike (Christopher Walken) arrives and directs all men to crowd around Sarah so that no one can see what's going on, although Joanna sees Mike touch Sarah and she puts off sparks. After Sarah is carried away, Claire (Glenn Close), the town's leading lady, announces to Joanna that Mike essentially runs Stepford and says that she's his wife.

Joanna argues with Walter about the incident with Sarah until he loses his temper and yells at her. He tells her that her children barely know her, that their marriage is falling apart, and that she's so domineering people literally want to kill her. Realizing how unhappy she is, Joanna apologizes and agrees to try and fit in with the other wives. The next day, as she cleans the house and tries wearing more make-up, she talks with Bobbie and Roger, and they decide to visit Sarah. Entering the house, they hear Sarah having loud, passionate sex with her husband. Roger starts tiptoeing up the stairs to have a peek, and the women follow until they hear someone suddenly walking out of the room.

They quickly return downstairs to hide, and they find a remote control labeled SARAH. While playing with it, they inadvertently cause Sarah's breasts to enlarge before she falls on the staircase behind them. Frightened, they retreat to Bobbie's house, where Joanna suggests that they seriously try to live in Stepford. During this time, the Stepford women appear extremely vapid and shallow; in the Stepford book club, their story is a catalogue of Christmas and Chanukah collectibles and decoration tips. Meanwhile, Walter has been bonding with the Stepford Men's Association. When he wins $20 in a game from Ted, one of the Stepford Husbands, Ted summons his wife and puts a credit card in her mouth. She spits out $20 in one-dollar bills, revealing that she is a robot like the other women.

One evening, Walter and Mr Markowitz go to the Men's Association with Roger and Jerry, but Joanna and Bobbie hire a babysitter and follow them. Sneaking around the Men's Association, they find a long line of family portraits. They make a noise and Roger is sent out to see what's going on. Although he does not reveal their presence to the other men, he tells Joanna and Bobbie that nothing illegal is going on there, and Joanna and Bobbie leave. Roger is directed through a door and he finds himself on a balcony overlooking the main hall. Looking down, he sees something puzzling, turns to the camera and softly utters "Jerry?" The next day, he is completely transformed, running for State Senate as a conservative gay Republican.

Terrified, Joanna tells Walter that she wants to move. 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. She is horrified to find that it's actually a remote control, like Sarah's but labeled JOANNA. She goes online to research the women of Stepford and learns that the women used to be scientists, CEOs, engineers and judges. The next morning she runs to see Bobbie, only to find that she, too, has become fawning and stupid. Joanna realizes that Bobbie isn't human any more when Bobbie fails to react to the open flame of a lit stove. Joanna tries to flee but finds that her children have been taken hostage by the men.

She storms into the Men's Club demanding that the men return her children, but the men, who have been lying in wait for her, capture her. The men explain that when their wives were scientists and engineers, their wives reduced them to low-level support roles. Enraged, the men implanted microchips into their wives' brains and then transplanted their minds into cloned bodies, which became the men's patient, subservient and impossibly beautiful robot mistresses. As Mike reveals Joanna's new body, Walter voices his frustration at being second best to her. 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. Later, Joanna appears at the grocery store, calmly purchasing groceries alongside the other wives.

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. This in turn burns out all the implanted microchips, causing all the Stepford Wives to revert to their original personalities. Walter returns to the ball, where the baffled husbands are cornered by their vengeful wives. Walter reveals that Joanna never received the microchip implant; her argument during the struggle had won him over, and out of his love for and loyalty to the human being he married, he joined her plan to infiltrate Stepford by pretending to be a robot. Mike threatens Walter, but before Mike can attack, Joanna hits Mike with a candlestick, decapitating him and revealing that he himself is a robot. It is revealed that his wife Claire is a real woman and not a Stepford Wife as implied earlier.

Distraught over the loss of her husband, Claire explains that she created Stepford because she, too, was a bitter, career-minded woman, a tired brain surgeon. When she discovered that Mike was having an affair, she murdered him and his lover in a jealous rage. Deciding to make the world 'more beautiful', she created her robot husband, partly because he was someone other men would listen to. When Joanna wonders aloud why Claire didn't simply make the men into robots, she replies that she planned to turn the whole community into robots. Claire then electrocutes herself by kissing Mike's severed robotic head.

Six months later Larry King is interviewing Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger. After their experiences in Stepford, they have all met with success; Joanna made a documentary, Bobbie wrote a book of poetry, and Roger won his state senate seat as an Independent. Joanna also notes that while her and Walter's relationship isn't perfect, it is still real, and that is what is important. Before ending the interview, King asks about the men's fate. Bobbie reveals that they are being retrained back in Connecticut. The closing scene of the film reveals that the irate wives have taken over Stepford and forced their husbands to atone for their crimes by placing them under house arrest, making them complete many of the same domestic tasks that the men had forced the women to do.



This film is notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule. The tension started when both John 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.[4] Nicole Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project.

Reports of problems on-set between director Frank Oz and stars Kidman, Midler, Christopher Walken, Glenn Close and Roger Bart were rampant in the press. Oz confirmed in an interview that there was "tension on the set" and that he had "had words" with Walken. He also blamed Midler for being under a lot of stress from other projects - she "made the mistake of bringing her stress on the set".[5]

In an interview with Ain't It Cool, Frank Oz's take on the film was "I f***ed 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."[6] In recent interviews, Kidman, Broderick and producer Scott Rudin have all expressed regret for participating in the film.[4][7]

The majority of the film was shot in Darien, Connecticut, New Canaan, Connecticut and Norwalk, Connecticut.[8][9]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was largely panned by the critics; Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 26%.[10]

  • Rolling Stone said, "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen."[11]
  • Entertainment Weekly said, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality."[12]
  • 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."[13]

Critics are not without traction when it comes to negative reviews based on the technology used in the film. As stated by The Stepford Wives Organization, "in Oz’s version, they (the wives) were confusingly neither robots nor human beings." At some points the "Stepford Wives" are seen as full fledged robots: shorting out, being used as atms, etc... In the end, however, a simple "switch off" of implanted microchips reverts the women back to their usual selves.[14] Frank Oz even said "the entire movie wasn't what I wanted it to be".[15]

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 afforded it an average of two stars.[16] 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."

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".[17]

Box office[edit]

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.[1] 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.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Stepford Wives (2004)". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  2. ^ a b "Stepford Wives 2004 budget details". The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  3. ^ 50 Top Grossing Movies, 2004 Archived March 4, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b Kellogg, Mary Alice (8 August 2008). "It’s entirely possible that certain streets in Darien and New Canaan are closer to the true epicenter of preppiness. But Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, Connecticut, will nicely suffice for provisioning and study.". Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "Nicole Kidman-Frank Oz's Tense Remake". 2003-02-10. 
  6. ^ "Capone With Frank Oz About Death at a Funeral, What Went Wrong on Stepford, and (of Course) Yoda". 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  7. ^ "Broderick Hated Stepford Wives Flop". 22 December 2005. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  8. ^ Mazzola, Caitlin; Ryan, Lidia (16 February 2015). "Movies filmed in Connecticut". Connecticut Post. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  9. ^ Sherrod, Pamela (25 July 2004). "Bringing the Stepford look into your home". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 28 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "The Stepford Wives (2004)." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "''Rolling Stone'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  12. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (2004-06-09). "''Entertainment Weekly'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  13. ^ Merkin, Daphne. "''New York Times'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  14. ^ "The Stepford Wives Organization reviews “The Stepford Wives” (2004 Movie Version)". Stepford Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  15. ^ Rabin, Nathan. "Frank Oz". A.V. Club. Retrieved 11 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "''Chicago Sun Times'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". 2004-06-11. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  17. ^ "5th Annual Golden Trailer Awards". Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-07. 

External links[edit]