The Stepford Wives (2004 film)
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 grossed $103 million worldwide on a $90 million budget.
|The Stepford Wives|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Frank Oz|
|Screenplay by||Paul Rudnick|
|Based on||The Stepford Wives|
by Ira Levin
|Music by||David Arnold|
|Edited by||Jay Rabinowitz|
|Box office||$103.3 million|
Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman) is a successful reality television executive producer, whose career suddenly ends after an attempted shootout by a disillusioned reality show participant. After being fired, Joanna had a complete mental breakdown; she has even forgotten her wedding anniversary. With her husband, Walter (Matthew Broderick), and their two children, she moves from Manhattan to Stepford, a quiet Fairfield County, Connecticut, suburb.
Joanna becomes friends with Roberta "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 long-time partner, Jerry (David Marshall Grant). Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger witness an incident in which Sarah Sunderson (Faith Hill), violently dances and then collapses.
Joanna argues with Walter about the incident with Sarah. He tells her that her children barely know her, their marriage is falling apart, and she is so domineering that 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. Joanna, Bobbie, and Roger go to Sarah's home to check up on her. Sarah has left the door open and they hear her upstairs, screaming in ecstasy while having sex with her husband. As they scramble to sneak out, they find a remote control labeled SARAH. They do not notice that pressing a button causes Sarah's breasts to enlarge and makes her walk backwards robotically. They run away to Bobbie's messy, disorderly home. Roger confides to them that he and his husband 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, Chanukah collectibles, and decoration tips. In the Men's Association, Walter tells the other husbands that Joanna is planning to change. They show Walter that Ted's wife is a robot.
Joanna and Bobbie sneak into the men's association to spy on the husbands. They discover a hall filled with family portraits and are caught by Roger. Roger tells them that there is nothing wrong and the women leave. The next day, Joanna and Bobbie discover Roger's favorite flamboyant clothes, playbills, and a photo of Orlando Bloom and a shirt with Viggo Mortensen's face in the garbage bin.
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 with her, saying that they will go the next day. At night, a robo-dog gives her a remote with her name. Joanne goes into Walter's study and discovers that all the Stepford wives were once working women in high power positions and that a champion terrier vanished and is believed to be the robo-dog.
The next day, Joanna visits Bobbie and she notices that her house is spotless. Bobbie is now blonde, dressed in a Sunday dress, and blends 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 and does not even notice.
Joanna wants to leave and calls the camp for her kids, but she finds out that they were taken by Walter. She goes back to the Men's Association and finds that in her family picture, she now looks like a Stepford wife. Walter has gathered with the other husbands and confesses that after marrying Joanna, he has felt undermined and all the husbands feel the same. Mike (Christopher Walken) shows how they insert nanochips into their wives' brains and turn them into Stepford wives. 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.
The next scene shows all of the Stepford wives, including Joanna, now blonde and dressed in Sunday dresses, at the grocery store.
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. Walter returns to the ball, where the baffled husbands are cornered by their vengeful wives. Walter reveals that Joanna never received the microchip implant because her argument during the struggle had won him over. Out of his love for and loyalty to the human being he married, he joined her plan to infiltrate Stepford, with her pretending to be a cyborg. Mike threatens Walter, but before Mike can attack, Joanna hits Mike with a candlestick, decapitating him and revealing that he is a robot, and not even partially biological.
Claire (Glenn Close) explains that she created Stepford because she, too, was a bitter, career-minded woman; in her case, a tired brain surgeon. When she discovered that Mike was having an 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 turn the whole community into cyborgs. 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 in attendance. They have all met with success; Joanna has made a documentary, Bobbie has written a book of poetry, and Roger broke up with Jerry and won his State Senate seat as an Independent. As King asks about the fate of the other husbands of Stepford, Roger and Bobbie explain that they are still in Stepford, under house arrest, and are being retrained to become better people. The closing scene of the film reveals that the irate wives have taken over Stepford and are forcing their husbands to atone for their crimes by making them do housework and shop 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 horrific 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 film 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; however, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent over one-third of the film's 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.
- "The Stepford Wives (2004)". American Film Institute. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
- "The Stepford Wives (2004)". Box Office Mojo. April 4, 2018.
- "The Stepford Wives (2004)". The Numbers. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
- "50 Top Grossing Movies, 2004". History. Archived from the original on March 4, 2009.
- World Entertainment News Network (October 2, 2003). "Frank Oz's Tense Remake". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Merrick (August 7, 2007). "Capone With Frank Oz About DEATH AT A FUNERAL, What Went Wrong On STEPFORD, And (Of Course) Yoda!!". Ain't It Cool News. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- WENN (December 22, 2005). "Broderick Hated Stepford Wives Flop". Contactmusic.com. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- Mazzola, Caitlin; Ryan, Lidia (February 16, 2015). "Movies filmed in Connecticut". Connecticut Post. Hearst Media Services. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- Sherrod, Pamela (July 25, 2004). "Bringing the Stepford look into your home". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 28, 2015.
- "The Stepford Wives (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 19, 2021.
- Travers, Peter (June 10, 2004). "The Stepford Wives". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (June 9, 2004). "The Stepford Wives". Entertainment Weekly. Time. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- Scott, A.O. (June 11, 2004). "FILM REVIEW; Married to a Machine". The New York Times. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "The Stepford Wives". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. June 11, 2004. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "5th Annual Golden Trailer Awards". Golden Trailer Awards. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
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