Dubby Bhagat


There are several reasons why we should take note of the fact that the 2004 remake of ‘The Stepford Wives’ is now available in town. The upside is its got a great cast. There’s Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Glenn Close, Christopher Walken and Matthew Broderick. The downside is that the gossip during the shooting of ‘The Stepford Wives’ was there was tension on the sets with the diva like behavior of the stars which is ironical because ‘The Stepford Wives’, as a cliché, have come to mean obedient, submissive women. At the Los Angelese premiere of the movie, while Bette Midler and Glenn Close talked up a storm about what a warm fuzzy experience making the film was, Nicole Kidman was 3,000 miles away. Director Frank Oz admitted there was tension. The upside is the book, ‘The Stepford Wives’ was written by American horror genius, Ira Levin who gave us classics such as ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Boys From Brazil’, ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ and ‘Deathtrap’. The downside is Ira Levin wrote ‘The Stepford Wives’ thirty years ago as a reaction to the women’s lib movement. The upside is everyone thought it was a good idea to remake the movie three decades later when the ideals that women fought for had been realised and equality in the workplace, at least, had been achieved.

The downside is that the first movie starring Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss was adapted for the screen by guru William Goldman and was directed by a truly great director Bryan Forbes. The first ‘The Stepford Wives’ was a critical and commercial success that set a standard that was pretty difficult to live upto. ‘The Stepford Wives’ (2004) is about a high powered television network mughaless played by Nicole Kidman who has an extremely funny nervous breakdown after some extremely funny circumstances, and moves with husband Matthew Brodrerick and children to a New York suburb called Stepford. Stepford is ‘run’ by Glenn Close, the perfect woman and wife and her perfect husband Christopher Walken. In fact, Stepford is eerily, frighteningly, perfect in the sense that the women do everything ideal women should do while the men are slobs who meet in secret at a sort of club. Joined by author and rebel and another Stepford newcomer, Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman sets out to get behind the perfection. The results are devastating, and just when you think you’ve understood the plot, the perfection and everything, there is a final twist. Filled with great one liners and hilarious situations ‘The Stepford Wives’, should been seen while waiting for a new movie to come. Made in an election year Glenn Close plays a sort of Laura Bush who feels women should be 50’s domesticated for the sake of Stepford and America. Levin wrote the book after reading Toffler 70’s classic ‘Future Shock’ and the domestic robots it talked about and after visit to the animated figures in the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland. Said Ira Levin: ‘’In my early drafts I had a man building an artificial woman in his basement. That got a little too creepy...”

Said a critic of the first ‘The Stepford Wives’, ‘’In 1972 the women’s lib movement was its zenith. Every time we turned around we were hearing about what today’s women really wanted. In the midst of all this, Ira Levin popped up and, more or less, ‘OK, now, here’s what men want and it was like the world came to a screeching halt. Feminists were up in arms. How dare men have demands of their own?’’

After the seventies ‘The Stepford Wives’, the word Stepford entered American vocabulary as meaning anyone who is submissive. The first movie was followed by ‘The Stepford Husbands’, ‘The Stepford Children’ and ‘The Revenge of The Stepford Wives’. But the early movie hit an American nerve in times that were a-changin’. The new, ‘The Stepford Wives’, is a satire on itself and is bubbly, frothy and deliciously stupid. The upside is there will be no more Stepford follows-ups.