The Stepford Wives is about a small suburb where the women happily go about their housework - cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking gourmet meals - to please their husbands. Unfortunately, Bobbie and Joanna discover that the village's wives have been replaced with robots, and Joanna's husband wants in on the action. Written by
Screenwriter Bill Goldman originally wrote an ending that was much more explicit than the ending of the Ira Levin novel where the Joanna robot violently kills the real Joanna. Director Bryan Forbes felt this undermined the Feminist themes of the rest of the movie; so he rewrote the ending. Bill Goldman was furious that they rewrote his ending and never spoke to Bryan Forbes again. He even criticizes the director and the movie in his classic Hollywood behind the scenes book Adventures in the Screen Trade; saying that the movie was hurt by Forbes' insistence of casting his wife Nannette in the role of Stepford Wife Carol Van Zant. See more »
As the Eberharts enter Stepford for the first time riding in their station wagon, Joanna's head scarf disappears and reappears several times as the scenes change. See more »
She is a meticulous housekeeper, flawless cook, thrifty shopper, adoring mother, perfect wife, always well groomed, always ready to please. But not, of course, a career woman, particularly if her success makes her husband feel belittled. Even today, more than thirty years after Ira Levin's bestseller startled the reading public, we are likely to refer to such a woman as "a Stepford wife"--a creature who seems both perfect and perfectly shallow.
The 1974 film version follows the Levin novel quite closely. Joanna Eberhart is a beautiful young woman of the era in which the women's moment had come of age: intelligent, forthright, and meeting her husband on equal terms. Then she, her husband, and their children move from New York to the small town of Stepford, where she is dismayed to find that most of the neighboring women seem engaged in a competition to have the neatest house, the best-groomed children, the most satisfied husband. Joanna is relieved to find women like herself in newcomers Bobbie and Charmaine, but even so, it seems... odd. So odd that she begins to question her sanity.
The film works on several levels, not the least of which is the macabre sense of humor with which director Byran Forbes endows the film: it is often very funny in a disquieting sort of way, as when Joanna and Bobbie's efforts to start a women's group results in a gathering of perfectly manicured women exchanging recipes and comparing floor polishes, or when Joanna and Bobbie accidentally overhear a Stepford couple making love. But for all the wittiness involved, THE STEPFORD WIVES is rooted in the women's movement of the 1970s, an era in which "a woman's place" was hotly debated on a national level. Just what is "a woman's place?" And to what lengths might men go to keep their women in traditional roles? Unlike many similar films, THE STEPFORD WIVES has tremendous restraint--and moreover a truly exceptional cast. Katherine Ross' talents were never before or after so well used, and Paula Prentiss gives perhaps her single most memorable performance here as Joanna's friend Bobbie. The supporting cast is equally fine, most particularly so with Patrick O'Neal as the unnerving "Diz" and a nice turn by Tina Louise as Charmaine.
Ultimately, THE STEPFORD WIVES is something of a "one trick pony:" it works best on a first viewing, when you don't know what's coming, and on subsequent viewings the film tends to read as unnecessarily slow. Even so, it is an interesting little cultural artifact, an "almost classic" that is sure to give you pause the next time your better half announces he is joining a men's club. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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