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:: The Stepford Wives

It’s one career bitch up against golf, beer and female subservience, fighting the ultimate battle of the sexes in this modernised version of 1975 film, The Stepford Wives. This film is packed with laughs as pretty floral dresses and an impossible sparkling kitchen is pitted against a career and rowdy kids. Boasting a cast of Nicole Kidman, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler and Glenn Close, with the producer of The Hours and The Truman Show, it really couldn’t be bad. Cleverly made, it balances humour and pop-culture with thought provoking social comment.

A reckless career move leaves ball-breaking TV executive, Joanna Eberhart (Nicole Kidman), unemployed and in a state of nervous collapse. In the interests of her failing marriage and her remaining sanity Joanna, her frustrated husband Walter (Matthew Broderick) and their children move to the perfectly perfect town of Stepford, Connecticut to rebuild their lives.

Stepford is paradise, like no place they have ever seen. Mess-free robot dogs play on the manicured lawns of spotless houses while women wearing pretty florals prepare for bake-sales and square dances. Walter couldn’t be happier playing golf and socialising at the Men’s Club in this town where geeks are gods and women only seem happy when pleasing their husbands. But as Joanna says “Its just not normal!” Her feelings of alienation develop into suspicions of something sinister when she notices stranger things about the Stepford women than their apparent Martha Stuart obsessions. When other normal newcomers Bobby (Bette Midler) and Roger (Roger Bart) are drawn into the Stepford way of life she knows there is something seriously wrong.

Nicole Kidman brings a great deal of charisma and charm to the role of Joanna, showing off her talent for comic timing. Her reserved elegance holds its own beside the larger-than-life characters of Bette Midler and Glenn Close. Having such an accomplished lead actor and fabulous supporting cast ensures the story never feels flat, despite a few holes in the screenplay.

The sets, the scenery and the costumes are as lovely as a 1950’s TV commercial. The Ballroom scene in particular is full of gorgeous dresses and more waltzing than we’ve seen in years. Deliberately greyed out shots of New York have sharp edges and harsh tones, contrasting with warm and mellow Stepford to great effect.

Director Frank Oz (Bowfinger, In & Out) has made a dark but hilarious comedy about the fantasy of perfection and the horror of its reality. While touted as an expression of modern feminism, The Stepford Wives is more about love and compromise between two people than the success or happiness of either by themselves.

Screening on general release.