The Stepford Wives

DVD Rating: ***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read David Stanners's film review of The Stepford Wives

The DVD extras want to be your friend. They positively preen, perform and pamper your sensibilities. There are so many flowers in every scene you yearn for inner-city frugality. The town, according to director Frank Oz and his makeover team of carefully casual designer people, doesn't exist, although Glenn Close confesses she was brought up here, or rather down the road, and feels a bit funny about it.

The audio accompaniment by Oz, a tall, grizzled, skinny-bear of a man, with a white spiky chin, is exactly what you want from a commentary. He is precise; he never stops talking; he remembers everything; he's amusing, without being patronising; he is neither a gossip, nor a snitch.

He talks about Nic (Kidman) with respect. He talks about Glenn (Close) with unfettered admiration ("I didn't have to tell her anything"). He talks about how difficult it was for The Wives to be smiley and nice all the time and how Bette Midler hated having to sit on a garden chair in a reindeer suit - wouldn't you?

The square dance took days to shoot. Close is obviously having fun, fooling around when the cameras aren't looking. The Summer Fair took over a week, due to the weather (are we interested?). Oz overshot and had to cut ruthlessly, later. Some of the deleted scenes are good and should have been kept, but the director wouldn't let sentiment sway his judgement. "The story is God," he pronounces. Pace, pace, pace! You mustn't get bogged down with detail; keep it moving, keep it moving. Big mistake in my view, but, anyway...

The extras are variations on the philosophy of Stepford - what it is, means, aspires to, reflects. No one talks about Bryan Forbes's 1975 original, with Katherine Ross, except to say that they didn't watch it, because of wanting to come fresh to Paul Rudnick's adaptation, which is, let's face it, high camp.

There are the inevitable Mutual Admiration Society moments. Nic loves working with Matt (Broderick). The gays are perfect, don't you think? Everyone adores Jon Lovitz - such a hoot! (Am I the only person on the planet who doesn't find him funny?) Christopher Walken is treated like royalty ("He's the guy everyone wants to be") and, as for Faith Hill, in her first acting role, words fail, except they don't, because Oz goes into raptures about her dedication and performance, before cutting so many of her scenes to shreds "for the story." Close, everyone agrees, is (simply) MARVELLOUS, while Midler, who seems the most detached in interview, has intelligent things to say and you suspect she wasn't happy being the comic relief, who turns into a special effect.

The extras have different labels, but are really the same thing - chatty, exuberant, upbeat and flowery. No one questions Rudnick's decision to turn Ira Levin's disturbing and scary novel into multicoloured candyfloss. The feminist wars are over. The assumption is that premarital abstinence and pro-life homophobic Christian fundamentalist beliefs are all the rage now. What else can you do with robotic super babes, but send them up?

Reviewed on: 06 Dec 2004
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The Stepford Wives packshot
Sci-fi/comedy thriller where a seemingly perfect American suburb, with unfeasibly obedient women, raises suspicious eyebrows amongst the latest newcomers.
Amazon link

Product Code: 8301582

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Commentary by director Frank Oz; A Perfect World - The Making Of; Stepford - A Definition; Stepford - The Architects; The Stepford Wives; The Stepford Husbands; deleted scenes; outtakes.


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