Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Stepford Wives...

The Stepford Wives is a 1975 film based on the 1972 Ira Levin novel of the same name. It was directed by Bryan Forbes and remade in 2004. While the film was only a moderate success at the time of release, it has grown in stature as a cult film over the years. The plot follows Joanna, her husband Walter and their two children who move from New York City to the idyllic Connecticut suburb of Stepford. They soon find that the women here all look ‘perfect’ and are obsessed with housework, but have few intellectual interests. The men all belong to the clubbish Stepford Men’s Association, which Walter joins to Joanna’s dismay. After feeling lonely in her new neighbourhood, things start to look up when she makes friends with another newcomer to town, Sloppy, irrepressible Bobbie Markowe. They make friends with another woman who turns overnight from a languid, self-concerned tennis fan into an industrious, devoted wife, which leads Joanna and Bobbie to start investigating with ever-increasing concern. They begin to search other houses around town, and when Joanna, who is an aspiring photographer, wins a prestigious contract with a photo gallery, she can’t wait to tell Bobbie. However, she is shocked to find her freewheeling and liberal friend has abruptly changed into another clean, conservative housewife. Joanna visits a psychiatrist at the insistence of her husband and expresses her belief that all the men in the town are behind a conspiracy of somehow changing the women. The psychiatrist suggests she leaves town until she feels safe, but when she returns home, the children are missing. In an attempt to find her husband, after a violent, physical scuffle with her husband, she visits Bobbie who she believes is caring for them. Desperate, she stabs Bobbie with a knife revealing that she is actually a robot. Feeling she will be the next victim, Joanna sneaks into the mansion which houses the Men’s Association to find her children, but chances upon the mastermind of the whole operation and eventually her own robot-duplicate, which has soulless, black, empty eyes. It is then suggested that the duplicate strangles Joanna, before the final scene which shows all the wives, including Joanna, shopping in a supermarket wearing similar long dresses, large hats and saying little more than hello to each other. The shot focuses on Joanna’s now finished eyes. Stepford Wives, for me, was too repetitive and long, which meant by the time we reached the good bit at the end, I was already frustrated by the rest of the film. Maybe it was the slow pace, in an era when the audience expects fast and snappy cuts. However, I did enjoy the intensity of the ending, in a film I felt was lacklustre apart from the great sense of eeriness it posed.

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