Sunday, August 22, 2004

What is this "The Wholesome Gallery of Horror"?

We just got back from watching The Stepford Wives at the mall and I must say that though some expectations were not met at all it was still a satisfying story. The tale tells the story of Joanna Eberhard (Nicole Kidman) who embodies the modern woman: headstrong, independent, successful, brutal, detached, and self-absorbed. But after suffering a nervous breakdown after being fired from her executive position in a super successful TV network, her husband Walter Kresby (Matthew Broderick) decides to move the whole family out of busy and soulless New York into the calm and sunny suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut. The town is gated signifying the exclusivity of its membership from all outsiders, huge mansions dot the landscape filled with manicured lawns, lush trees, and sparkling fountains, and all women looked like supermodels. The place was a paradise, a literal dream come true for the average citizen looking for that elusive American dream. Joanna was feeling a lot antsy about the whole place and would have left immediately if she hadn't met a couple of familiar faces in Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler) and Roger Bannister (Roger Bart). Though the three haven't met each other before this they still managed to become fast friends owing to fact that they all share certain prominence in their respective fields (Bobbie is a successful author and Roger, a famous architect). These two new friend of hers would eventually begin to notice that everything's way too nice and too perfect in the little town of Stepford. All the women look too perfect, too immaculate in their dress, too perky and too well behaved while the men, the men were a complete opposite of the women. The men looked like a bunch of spineless, nerdy, namby-pamby sissies who seem to be too caught up with their regular meetings inside a huge dark house in the middle of the town. Turns out that beneath the sunny picturesque facade that the town trumps up lurks a dark secret cooked up by a mad scientist bent on world domination.

The feminist bent of the story was already obvious right from the start although from what I read this remake of the original 1975 movie was too watered down and lost a lot of the feminist flavor that the original film stood for. It all starts out very promising but in somewhere in the middle the story begins to lose its steam making the mystery not quite as suspenseful as it should be. Everything just fell neatly into place spoonfeeding the audience with scattered answers to clues not leaving enough cliff-hanger scenes for us to hold on to. Director Frank Oz should have tightened the editing a bit more and added more depth to Nicole's character and her marriage situation with Matthew Broderick's character. The movie should have taken time out to show how torn apart their marriage had become right at the beginning. Matthew's character too should have shown a lot more desperation and foreboding look during the big revelation. He still came off too nice and not eerie enough to make the audience uncomfortable with the idea that this guy has had enough of being a doormat and is now asserting himself as an individual. That's my only beef so far with this movie which comes around to only a third of the movie. Good thing the ending departs from the original and gives out some good advice that nicely rounds up the whole story, which aside from Nicole Kidman's presence, Glenn Close's acting, Jon Lovitz's and Bette Midler's nasty dialogue, was the saving grace of this whole viewing experience.

* Check out also the review in Hollywood Jesus for more insightful reactions to this great movie.

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