Film Review: The Stepford Wives (1975)


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Before she was Donnie Darko's shrink, Katharine Ross was a Stepford Wife.
[Note: This review contains spoilers.] Joanna (Katharine Ross) moves with her husband and children to idyllic Stepford, where the women love making cookies, cleaning house, and servicing their husbands. Yes, ladies, it’s a horror movie. And one that holds up remarkably well. Sure, it’s a little campy. But a dose of dark humor hardly lessens the film’s horrific revelation — that the men of Stepford are killing their wives and replacing them with walking sex dolls. It’s an over-the-top idea (or is it?) but the movie provokes some genuine terror by exploring the idea through the lens of gender politics. You get to know Joanna and her husband. You begin to understand their dynamic, their power struggle, and the sacrifices they make for each other. They seem to have an equitable marriage… or is he just placating her? As Joanna begins feeling paranoid about the strange, overly-self sacrificing women around her, her husband begins acting aloof. We see cleverly written scenes where Joanna’s husband is privately grappling with the decision to have her replaced. The fact that it’s not black an white, that the husband isn’t purely evil to begin with, makes it even more terrifying: a rational man concludes that his wife is better off dead, that it’s more important to have someone cook, clean, and agree with him, than to let a real woman live. The final scene sees our heroine converted, grocery shopping in her sun dress and high heels with all the other fembots — each terminally “put in her place.” The male fantasy is simultaneously the female nightmare in “The Stepford Wives,” and while women and men have made strides toward mutual respect and equality since the film came out, something tells me it will remain relevant for decades to come.

Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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