THE STEPFORD WIVES (2004)

stepford_wives

Directed By: Frank Oz
Written By: Paul Rudnick
Based On The Book By: Ira Levin
Cinematography By: Rob Hahn
Editor: Jay Rabinowitz 


Cast: Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Roger Bart, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken, Faith Hill, Matt Malloy, David Marshall Grant, Jon Lovitz, Kadee Strickland 


Joanna Eberhart, a wildly successful president of a TV Network, after a series of shocking events, suffers a nervous breakdown and is moved by her milquetoast of a husband, Walter, from Manhattan to the chic, upper-class, and very modern planned community of Stepford, Connecticut. Once there, she makes good friends with the acerbic Bobbie Markowitz, a Jewish writer who’s also a recovering alcoholic. Together they find out, much to their growing stupor and-then horror, that all the housewives in town are strangely blissful and, somehow… doomed. What is going on behind the closed doors of the Stepford Men’s Association and the Stepford Day Spa? Why is everything perfect here? Will it be too late for Joanna and Bobbie when they finally find out?

I really wanted to give this film a chance. Especially as it has Bette Midler in the cast. Not to mention I am a fan of the original film. So even though I knew they were making it more comedic I gave it a chance.

This film is a mess. I know of the behind the scenes drama when it came to making this film, but this is another example of something that was original and a TV movie at that. That was moving and effective.

This feels like a bungled comedy you would normally see a big name comedic actor (usually from SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE act in but not one of those low budget projects. No this seems like the big budget prestige film that is going to put them over the top and cement heir box office stardom. By showcasing their talent and comedic skills amongst acting heavyweights. Who did they give that chance and starring role to Nicole Kidman. Who seems here to prove she has more of a sense of humor. As well as leading a more female friendly comedy in the lead.

Hollywood deciding to remake it and while they seem to have an original tale on the material. Seems like somehow it got watered down and decided to make it accessible to all audiences.

As this feels like a film that is obvious in it’s message of love conquering all. As well as being a satire on marriage, relationships and femainsm, with a cynical sense of humor that takes aim, it fails to shoot.

One can handle taking out the thriller aspect. As most people know what the story is about.

I can even take it being more a comedy or satire. Though at least make it funny and understandable. As it appears you are left to wonder what this was made at all. I guess it’s a nice attempt but seems to have gotten confused and left to work with what they had left.

The film seems overly aimed at a female audience. That might have been too much as the film seems to fall over themselves and want to address the audience as a group and not as individuals who might have differing taste. It seems to want to be accessible and throw in what they think the audience wants rather than have an opinion of it’s own. So that by the end it is truly made for no one. There seems to be an attempt to entertain but leaves the film with no fun. It seems more an exclusion where the thought is rather then let this opportunity be ruined.

Let’s make the best of it we can. So while everyone is smiling it doesn’t come off as a joyous experience. It feels forced more than anything. They by the time we get to the end anything they was supposed to feel surprising feels haphazard and badly out together. Like they used whatever idea sounded good on that day.

As even the great Bette Midler’s character married to Jon Lovitz seems more a big mouthed stereotype Than a real character we care about. She is obviously here more for comic relief. Then anything, but that is part of the films problem everyone seems here as comic relief other then the two main stars. As hey all seem more like ideas an representatives rather then actual people. But she is fun.

As most of the husbands are evil. I was one of the few times I was happy there weren’t Too many minorities in the cast. Though in trying to play to all audience members they do include a gay couple again. Who seem more here to be stereotypical and comedic relief.

The main problem with the film is that it tries to be too many things for too many different people and ends up satisfying no one. As it tries to have it’s female empowerment message it also tries to be a satire and also tries to stick to being a proper remake of the original only more modern. What it never is, is suspenseful or does it have any real science fiction edge. Even though the heart of the story is right there and others have used it’s framework for dazzling effect. Look at GET OUT.

So that the film cares so much more about being. Tongue in cheek and humorous that it never focuses too much on it’s issues. Which when they do come out with a bullhorn.

It does not help when that main character comes off as a villain and unlikeable for the audience to really care to see her triumph. I’m not saying it’s not possible but it just doesn’t work here.

The film was originally going to keep the book’s ending, but it was changed when test audiences didn’t like it. Heavily re-edited and re-written following test screenings, with new scenes shot and others deleted. The attempts to cater to audience tastes backfired as the new edits and scenes created continuity errors and major story problems.

Matthew Broderick’s character seems way too wimpy and he and Nicole Kidman have no chemistry so they seem ill equipped as a couple none the less the successful love conquers all one. Though it’s not hard to believe he was a replacement for actor John Cusack,

The science of the film makes no sense as later in the film it seems more he the wives have been I planted with chips in their brains to make them seem more docile and robotic, but in Scenes earlier in the film they seem to be actual Robots. As when one husbands wife seems to swallow his atm card and produce money out of her mouth. And when the neferious plot is revealed and Matthew Broderick has to take her to become a stepford wife there is a life cast shell that seems more robotic. As well as the husbands have a remote where their wives can go faster and backwards. But by the end all the chips are destroyed and they are back to normal.

The original seemed to suggest that the women were murdered and replaced by robotic clones. Here it seems they couldn’t decide as murder should be too ghastly.

The film is obviously dated and has a upper crust chic look about it. Though it certainly displays a style and fashions that look better to be remembered than worn.

Director Frank Oz has reported regrets over his involvement, admitting that he feels he made too many mistakes, cared too much about what the studios, audiences, and producers wanted, and ultimately delivered a substandard project.

The film had an infamously troubled production, with reports of clashes between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler. In later interviews, Kidman, Matthew Broderick, and producer Scott Rudin all expressed regret for being part of this movie. Kidman reportedly almost left the project, dissatisfied with the script rewrites.

This was when Nicole Kidman was at the top of Hollywood actresses and it seems right after she achieved that status she seemed to be It Revitalized remakes such as this and the big screen BEWITCHED and THE INVASION a reworked modern day version of THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. These movies all bombed and seemed to sink Kidman’s career for a bit. Where as after this she rarely seems to appear in Studio films and starred more in independent films some of which were great some not so much, but she seems to have leveled off her career to a good standing. The film does have it’s Moments very few of them. It just seems such a huge endeavor especially financially at the time to have it seem like so little thought and effort into it at all.

Maybe as going into the film. Where we all know the story or twist. They were trying to find another way to keep the audience interested and never quite cracked the code. As it all seems more like filler and distraction. Rather than ideas or attempts any twists except tweak the ending a little. As it can’t stand by it’s own science nothing else in this film feels honorable or even sure fire.

As the film seems more like a racy family movie. As it has no real edge. It feels. Ore like it talks down to the audience like they are children. Telling them to eat this it’s healthy and be happy we at least offered you this. Where is the fun. They keep saying it’s fun and try to show you amusement, but this is no ride. So that by the end you are not given things that were promised. They gave you the off brand version of it.

Grade: D+

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