Saturday, February 7, 2009

THE STEPFORD WIVES (Bryan Forbes, 1975, USA) Stepford Connecticut is a Disneyesque nirvana for the patriarchal hierarchy, the template for male entitlement, which allows abusive relationships to prosper: a prescient and dire warning concerning domestic violence awareness. The film is a satire about male entitlement, ultimate power and control, representing the social enslavement of the burgeoning feminist movement. The film begins with a blind female mannequin being carried by a man: a plastic metaphor foreshadowing the inhuman narrative. As Joanna and Walter leave the city, Michael Small’s derivative score plays like some TV soap opera, which will contrast the brooding horror to come. Director Bryan Forbes sets the film amid the beautiful friendly suburbs, bathing the film in bright daytime afternoon delight; he allows the friction between the couple to crescendo as a family melodrama. But monsters lurk in the shadows of Stepford and gather at a dark secluded mansion, home of the Stepford Men’s Association. Joanna befriends Bobbie, another braless newcomer in town; they attempt to subvert the superficial and wholesome aura of this strange environment. When they finally convene a meeting of Stepford wives to create their own feminist association, they discover a mindless and one-dimensional attitude: these women exist only to clean and serve their husbands. They spout commercial jingles and speak earnestly of their housework, like drones…or robots. William Goldman’s script builds the suspense like tiny cogs that firmly fit together: from Joanna’s cluttered kitchen to Charmaine’s new attitude, and when Bobbie finally succumbs to the disease that proliferates the town Joanna believe she is going crazy. When Joanna voices her concerns, the horror cannot be explained in mere words, and she veers towards a nervous breakdown. Finally, her doppelganger sees through her eyes darkly, and she is subsumed into the great American Dream. (B+)

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