Starring: Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Glenn Close
Director: Frank Oz
Running Time: 93 mins
The Stepford Wives is an American film about a high-flying executive who, after losing her job, moves to the suburbs with her husband, and stumbles upon an unnervingly perfect community.
Taking on a well-known story both as a novel and a 1975 film, The Stepford Wives has a lot to say about modern society, from insitutional perceptions on gender, the battle of the sexes, classism and suburbia. So, with so much depth at the heart of its story, you’d expect this to be a fiercely intelligent and captivating watch.
However, as much as the original story is full of fascinating themes, this film is painfully disappointing, as it delivers all of those ideas in a fashion that feels awfully on-the-nose, worsened by stupid sci-fi that ruins the unnerving nature of the story, and poor humour and directing that makes it very difficult to take seriously.
It’s a really frustrating film to watch, simply because it has so much to say, yet squanders it throughout. Missing the mark in its blend of unnerving drama and satirical humour, The Stepford Wives is almost impossible to pin down, trying to deliver a serious message but doing so in the silliest fashion.
I’ll admit that I also wasn’t a fan of the original 1975 film, however that had a degree more atmospheric uncertainty and eeriness throughout, allowing for more poignance and hard-hitting drama when delivering its main themes.
This film, on the other hand, feels plastic and frankly stupid throughout. From a visual style that goes way over the top with its presentation of the supposedly prim world of suburbia to awful comedy, poor special effects and performances that leave quite a lot to be desired, The Stepford Wives is never the clever, genre-breaking tale it so desperately wants to be.
And what’s more is that, despite still featuring a wealth of great ideas, the film feels compelled to spell all of its main themes out for you in painfully blantant fashion, spoonfeeding you with the reasons and ideas behind the story’s main twists and turns simply because it can’t deliver the same drama in a more impressive or captivating way.
On the plus side, that does mean you do get an idea of what the film is wrestling with, but what’s problematic about being so on-the-nose with satirical themes is that it undermines the sense of irony that sits at the heart of the story – as we never really begin to fall under the spell of the perfect world of Stepford because the film is so vociferous against it from the start.
As a result, the film’s most engrossing ideas never hit home as they ought to, and The Stepford Wives ultimately ends up as little more than a sci-fi romp with an undeperforming A-list cast.
If you fancy something a little silly that you can turn your brain off and enjoy, this film might give you a good time, but it’s such a far cry from what the movie is trying to achieve. The brilliance of its source material notwithstanding, The Stepford Wives is a real disappoinment, and hardly worth your time, so that’s why I’m giving it a 5.5 overall.