The Stepford Wives (2004)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BB.5

USA, 2004.  Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks, Scott Rudin Productions, De Line Pictures.  Screenplay by , based on the book by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .    Music by .    Production Design by .    Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

Updating a novel written in the sixties that was a satiric examination of America’s response to the new feminism might seem as pointless as Guy Ritchie’s modernizing Lina Wertmuller’s socialist drama Swept Away, but sadly the issues dealt with in Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives are still relevant ones.  Nicole Kidman is delightful as a television executive who gets axed when one of her reality television programs inspires a real crime, and so moves to a quiet Connecticut suburb with her husband () and children to cope with the nervous breakdown she has just barely survived. Once there, she befriends a feminist writer (Bette Midler) and a gay architect () and the three of them start to notice some very odd things about their new neighbourhood: all the wives are gorgeous, supermodel babes who love to please their geeky, boring husbands. It isn’t long before the three of them realize that something very sinister is going on, and it doesn’t help when they begin to suspect that they themselves are targets of something terrible. Paul Rudnick’s witty script turns the original creeper into a comedy, with the best moments resulting from the three leads working together as a Scooby Gang to figure out what is happening to their neighbourhood. As brilliant as many of his one-liners are, though, Rudnick leaves a few too many plot holes wide open for criticism and wraps the entire thing up with very little strength in its final third. The conclusion is too neat and tidy, something Levin would not have approved of, and director Frank Oz can never decide just how much of a comedy or thriller he wants the film to be (the many rewrites and reshoots likely explain this). Still, if you’re a fan of anyone involved, particularly Midler and a riotously funny Glenn Close, you’ll probably have a good time anyway.

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