Top critical review
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on 25 January 2003
This is a well made adaptation of the thought provoking, tautly written novella of the same name by Ira Levin, author of "Rosemary's Baby". It was first released in 1975 and became a box office smash.
The story is very simple, but gripping and well written. Joanna Eberhart (Katherine Ross) moves to the seemingly bucolic town of Stepford with her husband, Walter (Peter Masterson), and two children, leaving behind the dangers of big city living. An independent, assertive, intelligent, and creative woman, Joanna epitomizes the newly liberated women of the nineteen seventies. Looking for like souls with whom to become friends, she seeks out some of the other married women of the town, only to find that they are, for the most part, all uniformly addicted to housework, give their husbands complete obeisance, are made up to the gills, and have figures courtesy of more than maidenform.
Joanna manages to find two like minded women such as herself, Bobbie Marlowe (Paula Prentiss) and Charmaine Wimperis (Tina Louise) with whom to pal around. Bobbie, however, has a creepy feeling about the town and the women that seem to dominate the landscape and wants to move out of Stepford at the first possible moment. Then, a series of puzzling events occur, and Joanna becomes convinced that the town's mysterious Men's Association, presided over by the slightly sinister and chauvinistic Dale Coba (Patrick O'Neal), has hatched a sinister plot to change all the wives of Stepford into submissive Barbie dolls. Will Joanna manage to escape the fate of the rest of the Stepford wives? Watch the film and find out.
This film, coming out on the heels of the feminist movement, struck a deep chord at the time of its release. No one can doubt that the women represented by Joanna, Bobbie, and Charmaine are infinitely more interesting than the lady in the kitchen-whore in the bedroom stereotype desired by the Stepford men, who were, for the most part, physically unprepossessing, though successful. Have things changed all that much in terms of what successful men want in their wives? Instead of the submissive, Betty Crocker, little Miss Homemaker, Barbie doll type desired by the men in this film, many successful men today desire young, submissive, trophy wives with boob jobs. So what has really changed in the quarter of a century since this film was released?
Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss, and Tina Louise all give fine performances. Patrick O'Neal is terrific as the slightly sinister and supercilious President of the Stepford Men's Association. All in all, this is a moderately suspenseful and enjoyable film.