More about Stepford Wives

Artykuł pochodzi z pisma "Guardian"

The Stepford Wives

Another Bad Idea from the Bad Ideas factory - and this one's just about as bad as they come: so unfunny and unintelligent, so clueless and so humourless that it sent me into a state of virtual anaphylactic shock. It's an all-new, low-IQ version of Bryan Forbes's 1975 movie of the Ira Levin bestseller about the couple who move into an upscale suburban neighbourhood, where the creepy menfolk conspire to replace their wives with sexy-submissive robots.
Just like Tim Burton's terrible version of Planet of the Apes three years ago, it vandalises a gutsy satirical classic, in this case with a mixture of misjudged condescension, smirking spoofery and culpable failure of nerve. Whatever you think of Bryan Forbes's original picture - and I think it holds up pretty well - it had the courage of its convictions, and succeeded as feminist satire because it played everything straight: a chilling fantasy which was darkly funny because it never went for laughs.
This overegged "comedy-thriller" update from Frank Oz can't stop pre-emptively giggling at the idea that it could be guilty of something as démodé as feminism, though the f-word is never mentioned. What the new Stepford Wives appears to be satirising isn't male chauvinism or suburban small-mindedness, but simply the original film - to which it is hopelessly inferior.
Now it's Nicole Kidman who plays the newcomer Joanna, a high-flying TV executive specialising in reality schlock. She has a top-rated show called I Can Do Better, which puts married couples on a desert island and tempts them into adultery with babes and beefcakes. But a humiliated male contestant attempts to murder Joanna on the air; the network takes fright and fires her, so Joanna has a comedy nervous breakdown, with some hilarious references to her electro-shock treatment.
Her supportive spouse (Matthew Broderick) takes her away from the neurotic city for a new life in squeaky-clean Stepford, where they find Glenn Close and Christopher Walken presiding over the reactionary citizenry. Stepford has some sympathetic pals for Nicole: a Jewish writer (Bette Midler) who bridles at the Wasp-ness of everything, but who eventually submits to the goyische status quo. And this being the 21st century, there's also a gay couple, including a witty camp guy (Roger Bart) who sort of adores the uptightness of it all, but whose Stepford makeover turns him into a ghastly gay republican.
Nicole Kidman is here being called upon to play comedy. Now, excellent performer though Kidman is, comedy is not and never will be her strong suit. You could as soon ask Danny DeVito to play James Bond. But it's not her fault, and despite a couple of nice lines in the script for Midler and Bart, it's the concept itself which is so awful. The big shocks that finished the first movie - the robot breakdown, Katharine Ross's breasts getting bigger - are here shunted to the beginning, blowing the secret and crassly playing it for guffaws. A haywire fembot goes loco at a square-dance; another gets post-coital mammary enlargement via remote control. To which the only response is a wince of baffled embarrassment. These Stepford Wives are not funny or scary. So what are they?
You've got me. Director Frank Oz and screenwriter Paul Rudnick don't appear to be sure either. Everything appears to rest on the premise that the issue of sexual politics is a period piece. But the evocation of female submission is evasively presented as a kind of cod-1950s pastiche: the ladies dress in the obviously absurd frilly pinched-waist outfits of half a century ago, and when Christopher Walken presents a secret instructional film about how the Stepford Wives are surgically changed, it's explicitly modelled on a kind of grainy, flickering high-school movie from that era. In fact, the whole thing is worryingly like the recent migraine-inducing, period-pastiche sex comedy Down With Love - especially the scenes set in the glitzy network office, with Nicole sashaying self-consciously about in her black couture outfit.
Did we even need a remake in the first place? Sydney Pollack's 1993 John Grisham thriller The Firm about the small community secretly owned by the Mob was in its way a far better update of The Stepford Wives. Sam Mendes's American Beauty and Todd Solondz's Happiness showed how real film-makers investigate the secrets of American suburbia with wit and flair, and Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven was a superb intersection of modern gay aesthetic and provincial sex-stereotype.
In any case, the 1970s original is not as obsolete as this dire film implies. A look at modern Hollywood might make you think that The Stepford Wives was not a satire, but a prophecy. Cosmetic surgery is rampant. The sleek supermodel template rules. Turn to the fashion pages and see how Sophie Dahl has changed, or Kate Beckinsale, or, for that matter, Nicole Kidman. And on the TV news, the stereotype holds true. The men can be silvery-haired and fatherly and the women are identikit babes. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones could be a newsreading duo. Bestsellers like The Rules and The Surrendered Wife suggest that conforming is the next big thing. Millions of American women are said to want to emulate Martha Stewart, even as she heads for the prison cell.
Rich pickings there, surely, for any satirist - or for anyone with an observant sense of humour? But the pusillanimous new Stepford Wives steers well clear of anything resembling real modern life, preferring its postmodern, retro-suburban world, with its bets hedged and its jokes mistimed. The worst moment is that demo film where Christopher Walken shows how women are lobotomised. That's what this film is trying to do to the original. And to the audience.

anaphylactic shock - wstrząs anafilaktyczny
bridle - żachnąć się
clueless - niemający pojęcia (o czymś)
condescension - protekcjonizm
contestant - zawodnik, rywal; uczestnik
crassly - ordynarnie
creepy - koszmarny, przerażający
culpable - winny (czegoś); karygodny
dire - zgubny, złowieszczy
emulate - naśladować
evasively - wykrętnie, wymijająco
evocation - wywoływanie, przywoływanie
fembot = female robot; kobieta-robot
flair - talent, zdolności, smykałka
frilly -plisowany, z falbankami
glitzy - ostentacyjny, obnoszony, przesadny
go loco - zwariować, świrować
goyische - gojowski
gutsy - mocny, gruby, mięsisty
(go) haywire - wariować, fiksować
hilarious - zabawny, rozśmieszający
hold up - trzymać się
identikit - portret pamięciowy
intersection - przekrój; skrzyżowanie; przecięcie
makeover - zmiana wizerunku
mammary - piersiowy
menfolk - mężczyźni z najbliższego otoczenia
mistime - zrobić coś w niewłaściwym czasie, przegapić odpowiedni moment
obsolete - przestarzały
overegg- przedobrzyć (to overegg the pudding- zepsuć coś chcąc to ulepszyć)
pinched-waist - ze ściśniętą talią
post-coital - mający miejsce po stosunku seksualnym
pre-emptively- uprzedzająco, wyprzedzająco
premise - przesłanka
prophecy - przepowiednia, proroctwo
pusillanimous - lękliwy, tchórzliwy
rampant - rozprzestrzeniający się, gwałtowny, niepohamowany
sashay - poruszać biodrami podczas chodzenia
schlock - tandeta
shunt - przesuwać, przemieszczać
sleek - elegancji, gładki, ekskluzywny
small-mindedness - małostkowość
smirk - uśmiechać się złośliwie
spoofery - parodia; oszustwo, podstęp
square-dance - taniec, w którym biorą udział dwie pary (tworząc prostokąt)
(somebody’s) strong suit - czyjaś mocna strona
submissive - posłuszny, uległy
template - matryca, szablon
upscale - ekskluzywny
uptightness- sztywność, drażliwość
vandalise - niszczyć; niszczyć dobro społeczne
wince - krzywić się; skrzywienie


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