Set in 1869 Nebraska, THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE is about a Wild West couple who strike upon an unconventional solution to their misfortune.
When she is stricken with a fatal illness, frontierswoman Amy Hightower (Lea Thompson) fears that her husband Martin (Peter Weller) will not be able to manage the farm and their four young children alone. She sets out to find him a new wife, but single women are so scarce that the only candidate
she can find is a tough talking and not so young prostitute named Pearl (Farrah Fawcett). Eager for a change of scenery, Pearl accepts Amy's unusual proposition. She quickly learns that being a wife and mother entails more work than she had anticipated, but she sticks to the bargain. Amy trains
Pearl to cook, clean, care for the children, and perform chores on the farm. She encourages her husband to share Pearl's bed and is glad when he complies.
Just when Pearl is ready to fill Amy's shoes, Amy makes a miraculous recovery. Pearl packs her bags but Amy begs her to stay. She feels indebted to Pearl, whom she has grown to love. The women work out an arrangement whereby they share the farm work as well as Martin's affections. Martin faintly
protests that their living situation is ungodly but eventually settles on a weekly bed-swapping schedule. Several months later, Amy suffers a relapse and dies.
In THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE, campy dialogue and offbeat humor are jarringly juxtaposed with emotional outpourings and tender deathbed scenes. It works better when playing for laughs. Of the leads, Fawcett commands the lion's share of attention. She gives a spirited performance and smoothly handles her
character's transformation from reluctant understudy to devoted wife and mother. Thompson presents a fine portrait of the dying Amy, at once physically fragile and emotionally powerful, a woman determined that her struggle for her family's wellbeing will not end with her own death. Weller succeeds
in winning his laconic homesteader a few moments of regard by letting on that despite his protestations, Martin realizes just how enviable his position is. Filmed on location in Central Texas, the piece features convincing period costumes and production design. (Sexual situations, profanity)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Set in 1869 Nebraska, THE SUBSTITUTE WIFE is about a Wild West couple who strike upon an unconventional solution to their misfortune. When she is stricken with a fatal illness, frontierswoman Amy Hightower (Lea Thompson) fears that her husband Martin (Pet… (more)