2004 Running time: 93 Certificate: 12 Not yet rated
Stepford Wives, The 1S

Synopsis

In this day and age, a suburban paradise where pretty wives dance round the kitchen in Laura Ashley frocks while their loving husbands read the paper on the porch might seem like a world away. But that's what ex-workaholic Joanne (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) find when they move to the impossibly perfect community of Stepford. While Walter wastes no time in embracing the good life, Joanne suspects that their neighbours (including Bette Midler, Glenn Close and Christopher Walken) are not all they seem. The 1975 take on Ira Levin's satire played the scenario for chills; this colourful version from director Frank Oz uses sharp comedy to skewer the American dream.

Director

  • Frank Oz

Cast

  • Nicole Kidman

  • Matthew Broderick

  • Glenn Close

  • Bette Midler

  • Christopher Walken

Review

There might be a Stepford near you - the sort of place where Laura Ashley-clad wifeys head to the supermarket in their SUVs while hubbie takes in a couple of rounds at the local golf course.

It's an American Wadebridge, a leafy gated community where the women are as efficient as the latest Dyson and the men look on approvingly from behind their Scotch and cigars.

Into this picket-fence paradise drops Joanna Eberhart, the once great, now fallen president of an Endemol-style TV network specialising in on-the-edge reality shows.

She's upped sticks from New York with her under-achieving husband Walter (Broderick) to start a new life in a paradise where the priorities are baking cakes and keeping house.

Life is run along strictly male and female lines and enforced by Stepford matriarch Claire Wellington (Close), who presides over bizarre aerobics classes where the exercise routine mimics the spin cycle of your washing machine.

A disturbed Joanne is joined by slovenly Bobbie (Midler) and sceptically camp Roger (Bart) in their suspicion that something isn't quite right in this paradise of McMansions and manicured lawns.

Director Frank Oz has taken the coldly disturbing story of an idyll serviced by domestic and sexual robots and transformed it - with a fair degree of success - into a broad swipe at America's drive for perfection and rampant consumerism.

It's not subtle but there is real enjoyment to be had as Kidman, Bart and Midler (all excellent) probe behind the clapboard facade of a world where there is "no crime, no poverty and no pushing".

No modern Hollywood movie with a nod towards the weird would be complete without Christopher Walken and lo, here he is as the sinisterly ubane boss of the Stepford husband's closeted club meetings.

American corporate giants such as Apple, Microsoft and Mattel get a gentle kicking and screenwriter Paul Rudnick has fashioned a neat script lampooning politics and pop culture.

"All the women," hisses Bobbie, "are robotic bimbos. All the men are drooling nerds. Doesn't that seem strange? ' 'Not to me,' replies Kidman. 'I worked in television'.