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The Stepford Wives, 1975 and 2004, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 664

Essay

Introduction

There is a great deal worth observing in the way older films are remade for modern audiences. For one thing, the later versions are almost always filmed with an eye on reflecting the popular culture of the time, and consequently catering to more modern tastes and expectations. Additionally, the audience is given a sometimes surprising insight into how the original was perceived by the producers of the remake, and one often seemingly in contrast to what made the original appealing to begin with.

Ultimately, however, movie remakes exist to serve one of three purposes: to cash in on a virtually guaranteed audience and its affection for the original, to simply reproduce the original as an homage, or to reinvent it. In all instances many remakes fail artistically, if not commercially. In the case of  The Stepford Wives, we see an unusual circumstance wherein respect for an original translates to an artistically and commercially successful venture which also takes an entirely different approach to the material. Of all the reasons to remake a film, this intent to reinvent and present the original in a fresh and different manner is by far the most valid.

‘Stepford’ Then and Now

The 1975 film adaptation of the Ira Levin thriller, The Stepford Wives, was released as a serious and chilling statement on the gender roles of the decade, albeit presented in a farfetched and somewhat science fiction mode. The movie tells the story of a young couple’s move to a seemingly idyllic neighborhood where, in very little time, the wife is increasingly disturbed by

the levels of wifely obedience and antiquated, subservient behavior nearly all the other women of the town manifest. In due course the town’s secret is uncovered, and the wives are in fact perfect, robotic models of the real women replaced.

Even for its time, Stepford was not taken altogether seriously and was considered a semi-political, but nonetheless amusing and watchable, statement on modern attitudes about women. The cast was impressive, the budget large, and the film enjoyed healthy audience numbers and has gone on to achieve a form of cult status, if only by virtue of how intensely seriously it takes itself.

In an admirable and unexpected manner, director Frank Oz took the original and, in 2004 and with an even more impressive cast, turned it on its head. The plot line remained the same and the town of Stepford was presented just as ostensibly idyllic as it was in 1975. This time around, however, the team behind the remake realized that dark comedy is at the heart of any film with so preposterous a storyline. The 2004 Stepford Wives is textbook dark comedy from its opening scenes and, a few necessary moments of genuine drama aside, the movie never wavers in its affectionately satiric tone.

The 2004 remake of The Stepford Wives stands, sadly, nearly alone as an example of how mediocre material can be reshaped and reinvented for modern audiences, yet not disrespect the story or the characters in the process. Oz never mocks his characters; his treatment of even the most outrageous among them reveals an integrity in honoring the core of the original film’s intent, if not the film itself. Moreover, the remake goes so far as to radically alter the ending of the original film and, in a clever twist on more modern sensibilities regarding traditional female roles in society, the mastermind of the replacing of the women is in a fact a woman herself.

Conclusion

The 2004 The Stepford Wives is unique in the myriad ways in which it transforms flawed material and breathes new life into a weak tale. Film remakes, no matter what the guiding force behind them, famously disappoint because they either try to reproduce a beloved original and consequently offend an audience, or through blatantly obvious insertions of gratuitous sex and violence to satisfy what are perceived as the needs of modern viewers. The 2004 The Stepford Wives is a rare thing indeed, a remake that is a superior, yet still respectful, reinvention.

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