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The Stepford Wives

The wives of Stepford have a secret. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from The Stepford Wives

Ira Levin's horror story of a chauvinistic scheme to create the perfect woman was first brought to the big screen in Bryan Forbes's 1975 classic, where robotic women dedicate their lives to serving their husbands in the kitchen and the bedroom. Frank Oz, as director of this stylish remake, makes no attempt to patronise his audience when the dark truth behind the suburban paradise is clearly no longer a secret. He has therefore chosen to give the sinister story a contemporary comedic spin, and play the tale for laughs instead.

The basic plot outline remains recognisable although updated; this is The Stepford Wives for a generation raised on the notion that modern women can indeed have it all. When Joanna Eberhart (Kidman) is fired from her high-powered position as a TV executive, a nervous breakdown follows. And the solution for the burnt out Manhattan family? A move to the idyllic suburb of Stepford, which boasts no crime, poverty or pushing. Joanna's husband Walter (Broderick) soon settles into the Stepford way of life amongst the geeky male population and their Barbie doll wives. But Joanna and the other newcomers she befriends are not so sure that all is quite as it seems.

Bette Midler gives a fantastic performance as the witty author Bobbi Markowitz, as does the relatively unknown Roger Bart as Joanna's camp friend. They are both given some fantastic one-liners and provide many of the funniest sequences in the film.

Kidman gives a surprisingly successful comedy performance and it's refreshing to see one of the hardest working women of Hollywood revealing a more light-hearted side. The smart script and lively cast ensure that the film remains snappy and slick, with sharp comic dialogue giving a playful edge to what is essentially a disturbing take on gender relations.

Women's lib has moved on from fears it engendered in the seventies when many women were entering the workplace for the very first time. What this film cleverly portrays, however, is that many women have swapped their imprisonment in the kitchen for slavery to the office. But my advice: don't try and take this entertaining satire too seriously and enjoy it for the comedy romp that it is.

Bethan Way

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Screenings of this film:

2004/2005 Autumn Term (35mm)