Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Stepford Wives

When Johanna gets fired from her job as the president of a television network, she and her husband Walter, move with their kids to Connecticut. As they take the exit from the parkway to Stepford, we get to see the signs that say "Wrong Way".

You can say that again.

The thing about The Stepford Wives is that there are parts that are done well (the whole preamble when Johanna presents the reality show to the affiliates and one of the contestants takes revenge) is quite a good look at the possible consequences of reality TV production.

To me, the entire theme of the film is who is a human being and what are our responsibilities toward one another?

I did not see the original Stepford Wives film (one of m my younger sisters saw it when she was ten years old and she said it terrified her), but I just read the book by Ira Levin. In an afterword, Peter Straub writes that almost everyone misses the satire aspect of the book - the satire on men rather than feminism or the feminist movement. Actually, so did I. But the book did not seem like a horror movie to me, more like a philosophical fable with an open ending.

This new film version was like a mixture between The Truman Show, The Matrix Goes to Connecticut and The Manchurian Candidate (the old one since the new version is not out yet.)

It had its moments, but it got kind of preachy in the end, and any idea that the film might have been bearing witness to was lost. Yes, instead of feminism it's more about gay rights. But one theme or idea that it had, about expecting perfection in human relationships, is worth exploring.

In the RSV translation of Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, "Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect."

This has always been a troublesome and frustrating saying to me because human perfection is impossible.

However, the Jerusalem Bible translates this citation as "Put no bounds to your love as your heavenly father puts no bounds to his."

Now, this makes sense to me, and I think The Stepford Wives may have been trying to make this point. But it didn't do it so well. Love is what matters, and supporting one another with dignity and respect.

The robot dog could have added more of a sci-fi dimension. I would have liked that. If the filmmakers had stayed closer to the original story it would have been a better film because it would have had a focus.

Are there any original ideas out there???


1 comment:

perpend311 said...

I enjoyed your review but when you say, "The Stepford Wives may have been trying to make this point. ... Love is what matters, and supporting one another with dignity and respect." you seem to miss the idea that the movies shows no alternative to the battle between the sexes. In showing no alternative it shows no resolution to what we have:men and women who do not divorce and renew may grow to hate each other. At movie's end the guilt ridden (He was respect starved and love starved before going to Stepford.) Matt B. has freed all the women but to do what, continue the hatred, continue the battle or divorce and renew? The message of Stepford Wives seems to me to be that marriage, ultimately, does not work for the adults.