- The Stepford Wives (2004 film)
The Stepford Wives
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Frank Oz Produced by Scott Rudin Written by Paul Rudnick Story by Ira Levin (Novel) Starring Nicole Kidman
Music by David Arnold Cinematography Rob Hahn Editing by Jay Rabinowitz Distributed by Paramount Pictures (USA)
Release date(s) June 11, 2004 Running time 93 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $90 million Box office $102,001,626
The Stepford Wives is a 2004 American science fiction film. 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 film and book had tremendous cultural impact, the remake was marked by behind-the-scenes infighting, was dismissed by critics, lost approximately $40 million at the box office, and was strongly disliked by its stars Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler due to their participation in the troubled production.
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 (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 he loses his temper and yells at her. He tells her that her children barely know her, 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 her having loud, passionate sex with her husband. It sounds as though she is about to reach orgasm when they find a remote control labeled SARAH. While playing with it, they inadvertently cause Sarah to fall 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 Bobbie, 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 her children have been taken hostage by the men. She storms into the Men's Club demanding her children be returned, but is instead captured by the men, who were lying in wait for her. They explain that their wives, when they were scientists and engineers, reduced the men to low level support systems. Enraged, they implanted microchips into their brains and then transplanted their minds into cloned bodies, which became their patient, subservient and impossibly beautiful robot mistresses. As Mike reveals Joanna's new body, Walter voices his frustration at being second best to her. Joanna is forced into the transformation room with Walter, but makes a final argument before she enters to ask 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, but instead pretended to be a robot in order to destroy Stepford, Walter having been won over by her earlier argument. Mike threatens Walter, but before he can attack, Joanna hits him with a candlestick, decapitating him and revealing that he, himself, is a robot. It is revealed that his wife, Claire, is a real woman -- 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 robotics expert. 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. It's revealed 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 they had forced the women to do.
- 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
- Mike White as Hank
- KaDee Strickland as Tara
- Larry King as Himself
This film is notorious for the numerous production problems that occurred throughout its shooting schedule. The tension started when both John and Joan Cusack, originally slated to star in supporting roles, pulled out of the project and were replaced by Matthew Broderick and Bette Midler, respectively. After filming was initially completed, several changes were made to the new script, which created a number of plot holes, and the cast was called back for reshoots. Reports of problems on-set between director Frank Oz and stars Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler were rampant in the press. Kidman was reportedly so dissatisfied with the new screenplay that she considered pulling out of the project. In recent interviews, Kidman, Broderick and producer Scott Rudin have all expressed regret for participating in the film.
There is one scene in the film when Joanna Eberhart enters the Simply Stepford Day Spa, and finds lots of women dressed in colorful frocks and makeup. As this was happening, Nicole Kidman (Joanna) had been smoking a cigarette. Frank Oz realized that someone as focused on perfection and romance as Claire would never allow Joanna to smoke, so a take is shown in which she didn't have a cigarette.
In an interview with Ain't It Cool, Frank 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."
- Rolling Stone said, "Buzz of troubles on the set... can't compare to the mess onscreen."
- Entertainment Weekly said, "The remake is, in fact, marooned in a swamp of camp inconsequentiality."
- 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."
There were also receptive critics. Roger Ebert, for example, called Paul Rudnick's screenplay "rich with zingers", and gave the film three stars. Visitors to his website were less charitable, affording it an average of only two 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 film was not successful; the US opening weekend's gross was a respectable $21,406,781; however, sales fell off quickly and that one weekend would ultimately represent over a 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 million plus a further $46 million for marketing and distribution costs.
For the year, the film barely cracked the top 50 grossing movies, finishing well behind Barbershop 2, Christmas with the Kranks, and Garfield: The Movie, and grossing just over one-tenth as much as the year's luminaries such as Shrek 2 and The Passion of the Christ.[dead link]
- ^ Paramount now also effectively owns the international rights to the film, due to parent Viacom purchasing DreamWorks in December 2005
- ^ a b "The Stepford Wives (2004)". Boxofficemojo.com. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=stepfordwives.htm. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ a b "Stepford Wives 2004 budget details". The Numbers. http://www.the-numbers.com/movies/2004/STEPF.php. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ a b History.com: 50 Top Grossing Movies, 2004[dead link]
- ^ "Capone With Frank Oz About Death at a Funeral, What Went Wrong on Stepford, and (of Course) Yoda". Aintitcool.com. 2007-08-07. http://www.aintitcool.com/?q=node/33610. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ "The Stepford Wives (2004)." Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
- ^ "''Rolling Stone'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Rollingstone.com. http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/6121959/review/6121960/stepford_wives_rs952. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum (2004-06-09). "''Entertainment Weekly'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Ew.com. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,649278,00.html. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ Merkin, Daphne. "''New York Times'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Movies.nytimes.com. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/288230/The-Stepford-Wives/overview. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ "''Chicago Sun Times'' review of ''The Stepford Wives''". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20040611/REVIEWS/406110306. Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- ^ "5th Annual Golden Trailer Awards". GoldenTrailer.com. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080624081543/http://www.goldentrailer.com/gta5.html. Retrieved 2008-09-07.
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