Science fiction and fantasy                                            

The Stepford Wives

directed by Frank Oz

The Stepford Wives poster  
Robots are fast taking over the Barbie doll's role as most sinister plaything in this adaptation of the 1975 classic The Stepford Wives. Nicole Kidman plays Joanna, a stressed-out TV executive who thinks up sadistic game shows. During an awards ceremony a disgruntled contestant from one of these shows fires a gun at her. She is sacked as a result of this blunder, and goes on to have a nervous breakdown.

Walter (Matthew Broderick), Joanna's husband, is the supportive type so he quits his job at the station where they both worked. They move to Stepford, Connecticut, to be in a quiet town where Joanna can recover. Only Stepford has a secret. The women are a little too happy to bake cookies and look after their husbands. And the men are all nerdy types who have it too good. When one of the women collapses in a jerking fit, shooting sparks from her mouth, it's clear that something very odd is going on.

The wives all dress in floral numbers which seem stuck in the fifties, so their dress as well as their behaviour harks back to that era. There are sinister moments, but overall the tone is lighter than you might expect. It's more of a comedy and it has some funny moments from actors such as Glenn Close, Bette Midler and Roger Bart. David Arnold's insistent and cheerful score is a pleasure to listen to.

This film doesn't give much attention to the technical details of how the Stepford wives have been transformed. In fact some of it makes little sense, and the robotics isn't explained well at the end. Technical realism isn't exactly the point of this film. It is also very light on effects, preferring to use the talents of actors over CGI. There are no chase scenes, no martial arts or dangling from heights that characterise so many modern blockbusters. None of that is needed.

Nicole Kidman is great as the neurotic Joanna who rejects Stepford at first and then trys to fit in. Matthew Broderick is likeable as her husband, although he is perhaps too steady as you always think you know what he will do next.

The Stepford Wives is a gentle, witty film with some quirky twists. It's not too saccharine and it doesn't overstay its welcome. In one of the more disturbing scenes the townsfolk surround Joanna, chanting "Stepford always wins". In the case of this film they are right.

Film Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

If you like this, try:

The Invasion cover    

The Invasion by Oliver Hirschbiegel
The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is remade and updated for 2007.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson