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Mildly diverting is about the best that can be said for The Stepford Wives, a remake so pointless it could be about as entertaining as daytime tv.. Adapted from Ira Levin’s chilling novel as a comedy, as opposed to the nifty 70’s thriller which made the title a household phrase, the makers have missed out one crucial ingredient: Laughs.
Nicole Kidman (Moulin rouge, practical magic) plays Joanna, a burnt-out TV executive who gets fired from her job and is driven to the 50’s suburb of stepford, where rich, style-free, god awful men live with impossibly beautiful and servile women.
As we arrive we already know that something is suspect and it’s not just the script…
The original film, though far from flawless itself, stirred in the extra ingredient of sexual politics, playing on men’s fear of powerful women abandoning the home for the workplace. In the 21st century Stepford, Kidman is a high flier whose career crash leads her to question “maybe I’ve become the wrong kind of woman” while her hapless husband (Matthew Broderick) moans “your whole attitude makes people want to kill you”. It’s an interesting idea, that women’s liberation has led to a different kind of servitude- to the boardroom not the bedroom. But it was never properly explored.
To be honest, given real-life inequalities (and I know were talking movies here) in pay and conditions and the lack of women in higher management it’s stupid to suggest the struggle for women’s rights has been won.
But it just isn’t very entertaining, and social issues aside, this film has about as much consistency as a pancake stuck to the ceiling, for a while there it holds on to something but in the end it falls to the floor in pieces.
The director Frank Oz assumes, probably quite rightly, that the audience knows why the sisters of Stepford so slavishly serve their men, but the lack of surprise or suspense cruelly exposes a similar lack of decent jokes, some of which are chucked in at the wrong moments, which could have otherwise saved a scene or two.
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