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I'm sure 'The Stepford Wives' spoke more to the audiences of 1975 than
it does to the audiences of today, but this holds its own as decent,
satisfying thriller. Really little more than a variation on 'Invasion
of the Body Snatchers,' 'Stepford' follows that film's structure of
slowly unspooling clues and suspicions and saving its bigger 'gotcha!'
moments for the end. Katherine Ross was no doubt the star of this film,
but Paula Prentiss really stood out for me. Gawky and enjoyable, she
oddly predicted Geena Davis by a full generation. At one point in the
film, my girlfriend commented of her wardrobe, 'Wow, can you imagine a
grown woman today wearing a hot pant jumper?' The '70s
I had the misfortune of both seeing the remake of 'The Stepford Wives' before seeing the original and *actually seeing* the remake of 'The Stepford Wives.' If the original serves any purpose, it is to expose the remake for the gutless, toothless, anemic waste of everyone's time that it is. God, what a terrible movie
"The Stepford Wives" certainly isn't the greatest thriller ever made, it isn't one of my all-time favorite movies, yet I've probably seen it 25 times and I'm always willing to return for more of its creepy, seductive ambiance. Director Bryan Forbes has created a funny/sinister atmosphere surrounding a secretive society of men in suburbia who exchange chilling glances and lines when they are alone ("She cooks as good as she looks, Ted."). It does however feature a very moody and unhappy Katharine Ross at the center, and it's easy to see why somebody might want to bump her off: she gripes, she complains, she stalks out of rooms flicking her long, thick hair out of her face. When Patrick O'Neal tells Ross at a social gathering that he used to work at Disneyland, she balks, "You don't look like someone who enjoys making other people happy." This just after meeting the man! Thank goodness then for happily crass and vulgar Paula Prentiss as Katharine's gal-pal Bobbie. Prentiss overdoes it a bit, but she comes into the picture at the right time and gives it an extra lift. The scenario (a squeaky clean Connecticut community) is gleefully turned inside out to reveal sinister underpinnings, and I loved Ross' sequence with the psychiatrist (who seems convinced by Katharine's outlandish story, which is a nice change of pace). No, it isn't art (or even the black comedy screenwriter William Goldman says he intended it to be), but "The Stepford Wives" is smooth, absorbing and enjoyable. It cooks as good as it looks. ***1/2 from ****
It seems "The Stepford Wives" is enjoying a revival. However, it has been a cult movie since its release. As Gregory J. Paris writes, the act of losing one's personality while adjusting to conformity is an important issue in this film. In addition, it deals with man's obsession with "creating", until the day he realizes that the act of procreating is perhaps humanity's greatest gift for creation. It also reminds us of the cult to the mother figure, of the dangers of modern technocracies, of phallocracy All these concepts are expressed in a peculiar form in "The Stepford Wives", a movie that deserves to be included among the best of Hollywood's second golden era, the 1970's. Director Bryan Forbes, producer Edgar J. Scherick, and, among the performers, actress Paula Prentiss, recognized comedy as an intelligent genre to make a social comment about society, with Stepford as a metaphor. With moving dolls bestowed with graceful movements, dressed in long dresses, wearing hats and carrying parasols, the tone of the sophisticated American comedy seems appropriate to tell this horror story. The connection with dolls is established since the first sequence, when --following husband Walter's unilateral decision-- the family is moving to Stepford, and the kids call mother Joanna's attention to someone carrying a mannequin across a street in New York City: this aspect is used again, most notably when Joanna hosts the Stepford husbands, dressed in a flesh-colored suit. In Stepford, a liberal suburb, with good schools, low taxes, pure air, and business dedicated to electronics, you can sleep with your doors open. Wives are all dressed up, they have no interest in women's rights, and except for Bobbie Markowe and Charmaine, the rest -when not cooking or ironing-- complain of not being able to bake every day, or would promote for free a brand of starch spray, just because it is such a good product. The funny thing is that the husbands are as boring and robot-like as their wives. They're all successful professionals, who obediently have joined the men's association, which turns into Joanna's headache and builds the tension of the film. There is little suspense in "The Stepford Wives", as we know it in other motion pictures: since the beginning we know that something is wrong, but the filmmakers make us watch the anomalous situation, with Michael Small providing music that is far from horror or suspense scores. What Forbes and company do is to tease us, because we know that Joanna will become Playmate of the Year (check the poster!), following the drawings of an ex illustrator from Playboy magazine, and the technical specifications of a former Disney executive. When she understands why Carol acts like a zombie, why Charmaine hangs her tennis outfit, and why Bobbie turns into a 'chic' housekeeper, Joanna is confronted with her own replica. Why? Because the males can. As simple as that: "Me Tarzan, you second person, you stick to the loser position in a game that I always win". "The Stepford Wives" reminds me of another movie, L.G. Berlanga's "Tamaño natural" (Life-Size), in which Michel Piccoli buys himself a plastic doll to replace his wife. Berlanga and his writers Rafael Azcona and Jean-Claude Carrière emphasized psychological aspects. On "Stepford", while many of its comments add spice to the story (someone affirms that blackmail is what makes America great, another male has been sent to Panama maybe to arrange things for a new revolution or a new invasion), they also point to social and political reasons for this state of things, of this dehumanized community that money and know-how can buy. The technological paranoia enters the main bedroom. The male, confronted with the agony of some of his gender's privileges, his false attributes and wrong values, hits against the female. This may seem pessimistic, but it is also very realistic. The points "The Stepford Wives" made, created a controversy when it was released in 1975. Since then science has advanced. Maybe now they can make better Stepford wives, that cannot be altered by liquor or a stab, but many things related to the human heart remain the same. The problem is still there, because our egomaniac approach to our fellow human beings of any gender has remained basically the same, making the film actual still today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ira Levin must not like women, or hold them in high regard. In
ROSEMARY'S BABY he put his leading lady through the worst pregnancy in
literature, and once she got an ounce of courage to act on her own and
escape the coven that surrounded her, he had an uninvolved doctor send
her right back in. And now in THE STEPFORD WIVES, he does an almost
by-the-numbers repeat of his previous novel (sans the supernatural in
favor for extremely subtle science fiction overtones) and switches not
only location but divides the genders, in which the men, viewed mainly
as piggish dorks, are behind some shady business and are somehow
married to these knockout (yet oddly vacant) hausfraus whose only
motive in life seem to be discussing fabric softeners, cleaning at all
time, and then cleaning some more.
I presume most people, if not all unless they have been living under a rock or Siberia, will be acquainted with the plot, which in the novel is very short yet covers a period of four months, and in the movie moves along a little too slowly in the beginning but later starts to gather quiet force in a tightening noose, so I won't detail it here because to do so would not only be redundant but could not be done without revealing an important aspect of the movie. While the novel basically drops the secret midway by means of a poem Joanna Eberhart writes, the movie takes its time to let us in on the conspiracy which at the end reveals itself in that final, horrifying sequence at the Men's Association. And by then we've been outraged by the women's blighted feminism, and infuriated at the men who are little more than dangerous cavemen hiding behind technology and deceptive appearances.
I don't know if Levin, in creating his story, was looking for satire or horror but he manages to (again) blend elements of the two in a short yet unforgettable book. The fact that "Stepford" has made its presence in today's vocabulary has a lot of debt to the story and of course, the shocking movie. Both work on different levels while giving us the same bleak ending, but the movie has Joanna conveying even more sadness at the end as the camera moves into the expression in her eyes, and one can see just how much has been quenched in the name of submission. Katharine Ross is great in giving us that visual sense of a woman's life snuffed in favor of a mannequin's programmed existence. For that, it deserves to be up there with another similar classic: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, as stories about the Individual being forced into Assimilation by Complacency and Conformism, and Stepford couldn't spell it out better.
I watched this film without knowing too much about it beforehand, which is the best way to get hit by its surprise revelations - so, as another reviewer suggested, don't read any reviews before seeing it, they'll probably spoil it one way or the other. It is fueled by the same fear that pervaded the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" films - the loss of one's individuality. The director's careful, methodical pacing and his attention to detail may make the film seem slow to impatient viewers, but they pay off in some really chilling moments. Katharine Ross is extremely engaging in the lead....and (not to give anything away but) I'll never forget the image of the woman with no eyes. (***)
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
The image of beautiful, not necessarily sexy, women parading through the aisles of a grocery story in picturesque, almost Victorian summer dresses and wide white broad brimmed hats is one of the most lasting of this effective thriller based on the work by Ira Levin. Katherine Ross engagingly plays a women being moved with family in tow from the hustle and bustle of New York City to the serene suburbs of old Connetticut. Ross soon discovers that life for the gentle sex is anything but normal. All the women of Stepford seem to be concerned with is housecleaning and pleasing their husbands. This is a good, high energy film that shocks more from looks and what you do not see rather than what you do see. Helping greatly is a solid acting cast working with a pliable script. Though shot with an almost static effect at times, The Stepford Wives packs a few good punches. The scene in the grocery store and the scene with the empty eyes are just two of the highlights for me. Patrick O' Neal, lovely Tina Louise, and the ever loquacious Paula Prentiss costar. At the heart of the film is human identity and the worth it has/should have. There are aspects of social commentary abounding: the relationship of men and women in marriage, the effects of Suburban living, and the dangers of technology.
This movie holds up surprisingly well, nearly twenty five years after its
first release. The premise could still intrigue today - there are still men
who would like nothing better than to have the women in their lives be less
human. I guess now women want the same things and this is known as
Anywho, the movie is great and if it were up to me, Katherine Ross' birthday would be a national holiday. She is terrific and beautiful and is matched by best buddy Paula Prentiss. Tina Louise and Nanette ("I'll die if I don't get this recipe") Newman are also memorable. The final shots of Ross are chilling, and top off a memorable movie.
The urban aspirant photographer Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) moves
from Manhattan to Stepford, Connecticut, Massachussets with her family.
Her husband Walter Eberhart (Peter Masterson) decided to live in a calm
suburb, but Joanna did not like the neighborhood with beautiful and
perfect housewives. She becomes friend of Bobbie Markowe (Paula
Prentiss) and Charmaine Wimperis (Tina Louise), and when they change
their behaviors and viewpoints, Joanna discloses a dark secret in the
On 21 April 2005, I saw the remake of "The Stepford Wives" and I found it a funny entertainment. However, the original adaptation of Ira Levin's book is a suspenseful and very dark sci-fi, and certainly better and better than the 2005's version. When I was a teenager, Katharine Ross was one of my favorite actresses, and she is perfect in the role of an intelligent woman finding the truth hidden behind the complacency of such dedicated wives. The pace of this thriller is adequate, and the direction of Bryan Forbes is very good. I do not know why this great movie has not been released on VHS or DVD in Brazil. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "As Esposas de Stepford" ("The Wives of Stepford")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**Possible spoilers, but you probably already know the ending.**
Katharine Ross, hubby and kids move from NYC to Stepford--a picture
perfect town where all the women seem to be absorbed in housework. She
slowly begins to realize that something is very wrong...
A huge hit in its day, this film is dated but still holds up. Some people might see the film as anti-female but, really, the men come off very badly. And they are the villains. The acting is good--Ross (whatever happened to her?) is excellent as is Paula Prentiss as her VERY energetic best friend Bobbi. Also interesting to see Tina Louise (very good), Dee Wallace and Mary Stauart Masterson (as a little girl--no dialogue) in the mid 70s. The film isn't really scary (mostly because everybody knows the ending) and a little bit long, but it's still well worth catching.
Also, personally, this film had a defining moments for me. I'm gay, and I saw the movie when I was 13 at a theatre. I didn't know I was gay...I just knew there was something different about me. When they show Ross' robot double with the HUGE breasts clearly visible my immediate reaction was "Ewwwwwwwww!" So, this movie helped me come out!
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