"The Stepford Wives (2004)"
Music By David Arnold
La La-Land Records
31 Tracks/Disc Time: 59:55
Many people thought that a remake of Ira Leven's best seller, "The Stepford Wives" was a good idea up until they decided to turn it into a straight laced comedy in complete opposition to the 1975 film which was very faithful to the original source material. This version which was directed under duress by Frank Oz ("What About Bob?", "The Score") was befelled by various production issues and poor test screenings which resulted in a rather uninvolving but colorful film. The film stars Nicole Kidman as Joanna Eberhart, a wildly succesful president of a TV Network, after a series of shocking events suffers a nervous breakdown and is moved by her milquetoast of a husband, Walter (Matthew Broderick, "WarGames") from Manhattan to the chic, upper-class and very modern planned community of Stepford, Connecticut. Once there, she makes good friends with the ascerbic Bobbie Markowitz (Bette Midler, "Beaches"), a writer who's also a recovering alcoholic and they find soon out, much to their growing stupor and-then horror, that all the housewives in town are a little too blissful for their own good. Which leads them going on behind the closed doors of the Stepford Men's Association and the Stepford Day Spa leading them to question, why everything is so perfect? Until..they uncover the real truth which is both shocking and hilarious.
The film was not a hit and had a very tumultious post-production as well that constituted reshoots thanks to the film's test screening failures which lead a very shaky and distraught Oz to recut the film as well as make sense of the final project to which practically everyone disowns as this point. Another person that suffered during this process was composer David Arnold, who was coming off the major successes of "Stargate" and "Independence Day" as well as solid films such as "Changing Lanes" and "Shaft". "The Stepford Wives" was definitely a departure for the composer with a rather fun stab at comedy and frankly, the only great thing about this film to be quite honest with you. Arnold's score which is easily the films' most outstanding asset because it was very unique and tried to make a rather weak film all that much better and he is the only one that really succeeds in making this mess even watchable.
With very little time, Arnold enlisted the help of underrated composer Joel McNeely to help out with the time crunch on this film which Arnold literally had no time to waste and without any directorial advice from Oz himself who was going through the motions of editing the film to be released in the Summer of 2004. The score which sparkles thanks to a mischievous and gloriously dark waltz which he named "Midsummer Waltz" which actually culminated thanks to the warranted reshoots. This the major reason to get this album for as it opens and closes the score amazingly ("Opening Titles", "End Credits") which is inspired by the likes of Danny Elfman, Marc Shaiman and also would've made the late Michael Small, who composed the original 1975 film very proud. It's cheerfully fun with a wordless female choir to back up the power of the orchestra and its presence inspires the rest of the score, which plays out in various different guises with such complexity and power in such tracks like "Getting Fired", "Drive To Stepford/Gates Of Stepford", "House Tour/First Night/First Morning", "Claire’s SUV/Drive To SMA" and also provides alot of suspenseful, yet tongue in cheek material in "Pre-Sneak/Sneaking Around", "Where Are My Children?", and "Rotunda/Jo’s Descent/Mike And Claire’s Intro/ Walter And Jo’s Intro" that feature some of Arnold's strongest writing in the dramatic sense much like his previous scores. The grand finale (which was reshot more than once) culminates in Arnold's deft and memorable writing showcased in "Claire’s Speech", and "Claire’s Demise/Keep Shopping" which really features what would've been a much stronger ending to the film on screen and would've really brought out the score even more memorably. Arnold ably makes the best out of a bad sitatution and that's the reason it works quite well.
This is La-La Land's first official release of the score which was a shock that the score wasn't released during the film's release, which possibly might have gone by the waste side with all the production problems the film had. It was a long time in coming and it is a very solid release that features alot more music that ended up being in the final cut of the film and it works exceptionally well despite the lack of inspiration on screen. Arnold's moods and elegance are perfectly captured in every note of his well crafted score. It really shows why many fans of the score have wanted it for so long and this album will definitely not disappoint in any way. Very solid thumbs up.