|WELCOME TO THE DOLL HOUSE: "The Stepford Wives" (1975)|
Now that we have cleared that up, let me also add that "The Stepford Wives" just happens to be the perfect movie with which to ring in the New Year. Why? Because, frankly, anything that warns one not to become a pleasant cookie-cutter hausfrau in a floor-length Holly Hobby dress is just what the feminist psychologist with the vaguely lesbian hairstyle ordered! "The Stepford Wives" is like the eerie little love child of the sci-fi classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and the Tony Award-winning "Next To Normal."
|DOMESTICATED: "I just die if I don't get this recipe!|
"The Stepford Wives" is based on the novel by celebrated writer, Ira Levin, most famous for "Rosemary's Baby." My pal, and New Years Eve guest, Muffy Bolding, pointed out that both stories are quite similar in the fact that they revolve around headstrong women who are being deceived by everyone (including their husbands -- the ultimate betrayal!), convinced to ignore their gut feelings that something is horribly wrong, and are pretty much told that they are crazy. Muffy and I quickly decided that we must look into Levin's past and try to figure out where all this comes from, but that would have to take place after the movie and the raping and pillaging of the spread of sweet and salty snacks laid out before us that would rival any food orgy thrown around the fall of the Roman Empire. Burp.
|READ IT AND WEEP: Oh Ira, who hurt you!?|
Stunning doe-eyed beauty Katharine Ross ("The Graduate,""Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid") plays Joanna, a full-time mother and part-time photographer who's at-attention nipples not only steal every scene, but make it quite clear that someone has attended at least one bra-burning in her past. She is not thrilled to be moving from exciting and dynamic Manhattan where she snaps one last photo -- of a man struggling to carry a female mannequin (shameless foreshadowing 101!) -- to Stepford where things are so boring that black and white snapshots of little kids playing with a garden hose suddenly seem worthy of sharing wall space with Robert Mapplethorpe.
|PICTURE PERFECT: Joanna is about to snap!|
The neighbor ladies all look and act like valium-addicted Mormon "sister wives" with their vacant stares and ruffled, floral Laura Ashley monstrosities dragging across their spotless linoleum floors. Even beautiful and feisty Charmaine (a surprisingly good Tina Louise, best known for playing Ginger Grant on "Gilligan's Island"), devolves from a chainsmoking former tennis player in a miniscule white skirt to an insipid glazed donut right out of an old Breck Shampoo ad, smiling as she watches her beloved tennis court being violently bulldozed to make way for the heated swimming pool her hideous old husband has "always wanted."
|TENNIS ANYONE? Charmaine used to have balls, but no more.|
But that will never happen to Bobbie Markowe, right? You see, Bobbie (played by the force-of-nature known as Paula Prentiss) is wacky and irreverent and wonderful in her butt cheek-exposing hot pants/overalls and shameless halter tops. Upon seeing Joanna's messy kitchen she practically has an orgasm. The scene ends with them seated in that filthy kitchen, drinking scotch in the middle of the day, bitching about starched and staid Stepford. Misery loves company... and Scotch! But -- SPOILER ALERT! -- poor Bobbie, and her beautiful bra-free bouncing boobs, are doomed. She returns from a romantic weekend with her husband (well, she doesn't return, but something does!) and her hair is perfect and she is essentially wearing a dress that '70s country western star Loretta Lynn might choose if she converted to Islam. When Joanna realizes that the new (and improved?) Bobbie no longer knows what the word "archaic" means, she does what any rational BFF would do -- she grabs a kitchen knife and stabs her right in the oh-so-symbolic womb! Remind me never to play Scrabble with Joanna. I mean, you fumble with the definition of one word and she goes all Susan Atkins on your ass? Not cool.
|I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS: Joanna "cuts" Bobbie out of her life.|
Okay, so let's cut to the climax! (And yes, "The Stepford Wives" is indeed one of those slow-moving, but suspenseful, movies that they made back in the 1970's when people would invest 90 minutes in a movie -- as long as it paid off in the end. Movies like "Isadora" and "Looking For Mr. Goodbar.") And what a climax it is! While searching for her missing kids, Joanna ends up at The Men's Association. It's raining, of course, and Joanna is carrying a fireplace poker -- of course. To make a long story short (too late!) she learns that the flawed and complex women of Stepford are being replaced by easily-pleased Betty Crocker robots who love to cook and clean and suck and fuck thanks to modern technology and a former Disney protegee whose resume we are to assume proudly includes working on "Mr, Lincoln" and The Country Bear Jamboree. When an in-shock Joanna barely squeaks out the question, "Why?" the chilling and unsatisfying answer is simply, "Because we can." Joanna starts running, enters a perfect movie set-like recreation of her suburban bedroom, is reunited with her missing dog Freddy, and then sees her rat-eyed, double D-breasted doppelganger brushing her silky hair at a vanity. And then, in glorious '70s Penthouse soft-focus, the new (and improved?) Joanna kills the old one. Just typing it, gives me the chills.
|THE EYES HAVE IT: I guess it's better than your|
husband giving you the other kind of black eye!
Okay, so it's not 1975 -- or 1984 for that matter -- it's 2011. And you know what? I feel like, thanks to technology, reality shows, consumerism run amok, plastic surgery and homeland security, we are all closer to becoming Stepford Wives, Husbands and yes, even Stepford Faggots. Fight the urge to conform. Big boobs and small noses are is just the beginning. Next thing you know, they're ripping up your tennis court and you're singing the praises of Easy-On Spray Starch. Don't let them get you. Keep fighting.
And learn to love your flaws in 2011.