The Stepford Wives (2004 film)
|The Stepford Wives|
|Directed by||Frank Oz|
|Screenplay by||Paul Rudnick|
|Based on||The Stepford Wives|
by Ira Levin
|Edited by||Jay Rabinowitz|
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Box office||$103.3 million|
The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American science fiction black comedy film 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. It is based on Ira Levin's 1972 novel of the same name and is the second feature-length adaptation of the novel, following the 1975 film of the same name. The film received generally negative reviews from the critics and was a box office failure, grossing $103 million worldwide on a $90 million budget.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (May 2021)
Successful reality television executive producer Joanna Eberhart's (Nicole Kidman) career suddenly ends after a disillusioned reality show participant named Hank attempts a shootout. After being fired, Joanna completely breaks down mentally, even forgetting her wedding anniversary. She, her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their two children Pete and Kimberly move from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Fairfield County, Connecticut, suburb.
Joanna befriends writer and recovering alcoholic Roberta "Bobbie" Markowitz (Bette Midler) and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart), a flamboyant gay man who has moved to town with his long-time partner, Jerry (David Marshall Grant). After the trio witness Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill) violently dance and then collapse, Joanna argues with Walter about the incident with Sarah. He tells her that her children barely know her, their marriage is crumbling, and her domineering nature makes 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. She, Bobbie, and Roger go to Sarah's home to check up on her. Sarah has left the door open and they hear her upstairs, ecstatically screaming during sex with her husband. As they scramble to sneak out, they find a remote control labeled SARAH, discovering a button that causes Sarah's breasts to enlarge and makes her walk backwards robotically. They run away to Bobbie's messy, disorderly home, where Roger confides that he and Jerry 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, Hanukkah collectibles, and decoration tips. In the Men's Association, Walter tells the other husbands that Joanna plans to change. Joanna and Bobbie sneak into the men's association to spy on the husbands. They discover a hall filled with family portraits, but Roger catches them and assures them that all is well. The next day, the pair discover Roger's favorite flamboyant clothes, playbills, a photo of Orlando Bloom and a shirt with Viggo Mortensen's face have all been discarded.
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, saying that they will go the next day. Going into Walter's study, she discovers that all the Stepford wives were once working women in high-power positions.
The next day, Joanna visits Bobbie and she notices that her house is spotless. Now blonde, dressed in a Sunday dress, and blending 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 without even noticing.
Joanna wants to leave and calls the camp for her kids, but she finds out that Walter took them. Returning to the Men's Association, she finds that in her family picture, she now resembles a Stepford wife. Walter confesses to the other husbands that after marrying Joanna, he has felt undermined and all the husbands feel likewise. Men's Association's leader Mike (Christopher Walken) shows how they insert nanochips into their wives' brains to make them Stepford wives. The men corner the couple and force them toward the transformation room, but before Joanna enters, she makes a final appeal by asking if the new wives really mean it when they tell their husbands that they love them. The next scene shows the Stepford wives, including Joanna, now blonde and dressed in Sunday dresses, at the grocery store.
With Joanna and Walter as special guests, Stepford hosts a formal ball. During the festivities, Joanna distracts Mike and entices him into the garden, while Walter slips away to the transformation room, where he destroys the software that programs the women, before returning to the ball, where the vengeful wives corner their baffled husbands, and revealing that Joanna never received the microchip implant. Devoted and loyal to her, he joined her plan to infiltrate Stepford, with her impersonating a cyborg. Mike threatens Walter, but Joanna decapitates him with a candlestick, exposing him as a robot.
Claire (Glenn Close) explains that she created Stepford because she, too, was a bitter, career-minded woman; specifically, a tired brain surgeon. When she discovered Mike's 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 program the whole community. Claire then electrocutes herself by kissing Mike's severed robotic head.
Six months later, Larry King is interviewing Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger, with Walter also attending. They have all become successful; Joanna has made a documentary, Bobbie has written a poetry book, and Roger broke up with Jerry and won his State Senate seat as an Independent. As King asks about the other husbands of Stepford, Roger and Bobbie explain that they are still in town, under house arrest, and being retrained to become better people. The closing scene reveals that the irate wives now rule Stepford and are forcing their husbands to atone for their crimes by doing housework and shopping for them.
- Nicole Kidman as Joanna Eberhart
- Matthew Broderick as Walter Kresby
- Bette Midler as Roberta "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
- Lisa Lynn Masters as Carol Wainwright
- Robert Stanton as Ted Van Sant
- Mike White as Hank
- Carrie Preston as Barbara
- 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 Pete Kresby, Joanna and Walter's son
John Cusack was originally cast as Walter and his sister Joan Cusack was originally cast as Bobbie. Joan Cusack had previously appeared in two other films written by Rudnick - Addams Family Values and In & Out, the latter also directed by Frank Oz, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. They both had to drop out of the film only weeks before filming started, to be with their father, Dick Cusack, who was dying.
Reportedly, there were problems on-set between 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."
The film was originally conceived as a darkly satirical piece, with an ending closer to the finale of the original, but negative results from test screenings caused Paramount to commission numerous rounds of reshoots, which significantly altered the tone of the film, and gave it a new ending.
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 Stepford Wives holds an approval rating of 26%, based on 175 reviews with an average rating of 4.70/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "In exchanging the chilling satire of the original into mindless camp, this remake has itself become Stepford-ized."
Pete Travers of Rolling Stone said that the on-set complications of the film "can't compare to the mess onscreen." Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp, inconsequentiality." A. O. Scott of 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 but sales fell off quickly. That weekend represented over a third of the final 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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