Preview by: Jack Foley
OSCAR-winning actress, Nicole Kidman, has opted to take a break
from her serious roles, for a change, and gone for comedy, with
the upcoming release of The Stepford Wives.
Based on the book by Ira Levin, the film is also a remake of
the 1975 adaptation, which cast Katharine Ross in the lead role,
and became a horror classic.
The re-working is described as a fearful, yet wonderfully
satirical take on the 1950s housewives tale, and is
directed by Frank Oz, with a cast including Matthew Broderick,
Glenn Close, Bette Midler and Christopher Walken.
It finds Kidman and Broderick as a couple who arrive in the quaint
suburban town of Stepford, Connecticut, to find that the women
have been transformed by their husbands into totally submissive,
Far from being put out by this, however, the women seem overly
happy and totally compliant.
The new arrivals must therefore figure out where they fall in
this web of weirdness.
Advance word on the film has been mixed, to say the least, despite
its stellar cast. While filming, for instance, there were several
reports on onset friction, but the trailers, which have been doing
the rounds for some time, seemed to suggest the mix had been got
In fact, one of the trailers for the film has proved so memorable,
that it cleaned up at the Fifth Annual Golden Trailer Awards,
held recently in Los Angeles.
The trailer in question depicts the idyllic '50s town of Stepford,
into which Kidman is immersed, following a breakdown after losing
her high-profile job.
It grabbed the most original, Summer 2004 blockbuster
category, as well as Best of Show Trailers and Most
The success has gone some way to glossing over the reports of
onset friction, which director, Oz, confirmed had taken place
in an interview with the New York Daily News.
He simply commented: "Tension on the set? Absolutely! In
every movie I do, there's tension. That's the whole point. And
working people hard, that's exactly what they expect me to do."
According to the report, Oz had butted heads with both Midler
and Walken, with the former's rep subsequently issuing a statement,
confirming that the actress had been under a lot of stress and
had made the mistake of bringing her stress on the set.
Oz, too, confessed that he and Walken had a shouting match
one day, but wrote it off by insisting that he had shared
similar words with many other actors in his time as director.
"At the end of the day, Chris was fantastic," he maintained.
"This is like kids fighting for turf and then they're friends
The film opened in US cinemas on June 11 and has been roundly
slated in the States.
Entertainment Weekly led the pack, by declaring that in
the new town of Stepford, there's no bitterness, no struggle,
no competition, none of the scars of the sexual revolution.
While Variety noted that audiences that find themselves
laughing at first will likely be fidgeting as the pic drifts toward
a peculiar if oddly predictable climax, requiring - much like
the Stepford women - that brains be checked at the door.
The Arizona Republic wrote that it displays all
the intellectual heft of a beer commercial - light beer at that.
And the Washington Post concluded that it is an
empty comedy that takes hackneyed potshots at consumerism.
The Chicago Tribune lamented that trying to be more
antic and cuttingly funny, it misses the premise's shivery tension,
while Rolling Stone concluded, simply, that the sting
The Hollywood Reporter, meanwhile, declared that it represents
the kind of lame brainstorm that finds its way onto a summer release
There were some positives, however, notably from USA Today,
which wrote that you feel some of the strain in this immaculately
shot, designed and costumed farce, but it's fast and the cast
And from Hollywood.com, which opined: "The Stepford
Wives may not be as perfect as Stepford's manufactured denizens
but, supported by a fabulous cast, it produces some genuine belly
laughs just the same."
But, for the most part, critics were unimpressed.
Newsday wrote that all the efforts of director Frank
Oz and writer Paul Rudnick to make the story funny feel slightly
desperate and very strained.
And the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concludes this overview
by stating that the film's creepier moments are pathetically
weak, and its thematic update fails to attain the minimal credibility
that even a wild farce needs to sustain itself.
It is due to open in UK cinemas on July 30.