The Stepford Wives (2004)

Inciting Event: Joanna gets fired from her TV production job, and her husband Walter moves the family to Stepford. The family’s moving to Stepford is the true Inciting Event, but it’s integrally linked to Joanna’s breakdown which necessitates it. This is another example of a story that uses its Inciting Event to move the characters to a new “Normal World.”

First Plot Point: One of the women at the Stepford square dance has a seizure. This is the first indication that something is drastically wrong in this town. The “Normal World” the characters thought they moved into proves to be something else entirely.

First Pinch Point: It is revealed the wives are controlled by remote. The audience is privy to this information, but not the characters—which is fine in a story such as this one that allows for a perspective outside of the protagonist’s.

Midpoint: Walter discovers the truth about the robot wives. This revelation changes the entire nature of the conflict. It also (ostensibly) moves Walter into the position of possibly becoming an antagonist to his own wife.

Second Pinch Point: Bobbie suspiciously turns into the perfect wife. This time, Joanna, the main character, gets to witness the pinch point, which hammers home the danger.

Third Plot Point: Walter (apparently) decides to turn Joanna into a robot, and they descend into the factory, against her will. On the surface, this is a decent enough Third Plot Point, as it appears Joanna is basically being sentenced to death by her own husband. As it turns out, however, it’s a false suspense, since Walter never intended to turn her into a robot. It was all a ruse to escape the antagonists—and, as such, a victory, not a defeat.

Climax: During the ball, Walter sneaks into the factory reverses the women’s programming.

Climactic Moment: Claire, the mastermind behind the town, is electrocuted by her robot husband’s severed head.

Resolution: The men are all put under house arrest, while Joanna and her friends return to fame and talk to Larry King.

Notes: This is a horrible movie on a number of levels, but the structure doesn’t fall apart until the Third Plot Point when the film tries to fool the audience with a switcheroo which the characters themselves are never in the dark about. As a result, it not only feels like a trick (because it is), it also kills the emotional arc in the Third Act.

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