The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American science fiction 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.
Plot[edit | edit source]
|Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about|
the entire movie.
Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is a successful reality television executive producer. She is fired after her latest project, a show where spouses choose between each other or prostitutes called 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 (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 longtime 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 Walter 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 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 makeup, 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, 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 anymore 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 Mike 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.
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 they had forced the women to do.
Cast[edit | edit source]
- Nicole Kidman as Joanna Eberhart
- Matthew Broderick as Walter Kresby
- Bette Midler as Bobbie Markowitz
- Christopher Walken as Mike Wellington
- Roger Bart as Roger Bannister
- Faith Hill as Sarah Sunderson
- Glenn Close as Claire Wellington
- 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
Production[edit | edit source]
"The Stepford Wives" was notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule.
Nicole Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project. Reportedly, there were problems on-set between director Frank Oz and stars Kidman, 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, 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... I'm very proud of many aspects of the movie. The people were great. But when you sense that there's no governing thought, or that the governing thought is kind of 'Gee, I'm not sure where to go,' you can sense it... My instincts were saying, 'Don't do a big movie'. I had a very strong viewpoint to do the movie, but I didn't expect such huge stars. When the stars came, everything kind of ballooned up. My original instincts were to make it more intimate... I should have brought it all down and said, 'I'm sorry, I know we have all these huge stars but I don't care, I want to do something intimate.' But I didn't, I went with the bigness of it and I didn't feel right about it."
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."
The majority of the film was shot in Darien, Connecticut, New Canaan, Connecticut and Norwalk, Connecticut.
Box Office[edit | edit source]
"The Stepford Wives" opened at #5 at the box office, grossing $21,406,781 with an average of $7,002. It also grossed $102,001,626 worldwide and $59,484,742 domestically.
The film's production budget was an estimated $100 million plus a further $46 million for marketing and distribution costs.
Critical Reception[edit | edit source]
"The Stepford Wives" was given a rating of 26% on Rotten Tomates based on 168 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads: "In exchanging the chilling satire of the original into mindless camp, this remake has itself become Stepford-ized."
Rolling Stone called it: "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen."
Entertainment Weekly said that the remake of the film was "in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality."
A.O Scott of The New York Times wrote: "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."