Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Stepford Wives

US, 2004, directed by Frank Oz

Rating: **.5

Given the reviews that accompanied the release of The Stepford Wives, the actual film seems far better than we have any right to expect, particularly in its entertaining first hour. In updating the 1975 original, the film goes for the slightly wacky comedy tone that's familiar from previous Frank Oz outings, and which acts as a showcase for zingers from the pen of scriptwriter Paul Rudnick, who's much better at catty dialogue than he is at plotting (though there is also a surprisingly serious, and absorbing, scene when Nicole Kidman and Matthew Broderick discuss the state of their marriage). In keeping with the breezy tone, the production design and costumes burst with colour and energy; there's no doubt that the behind-the-scenes personnel had fun with the palette. Unfortunately, the tone becomes much less certain in the final half-hour, which bears confusing traces of re-writing, with a resolution that's unsatisfying. Nicole Kidman is much better here than in her subsequent foray into remake territory (there's a brilliant moment where we watch her react to the news that she's lost her job), while Bette Midler - who looks fabulous - provides some amusing support.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States