The Prostitute, the Pioneer Woman and her Husband
When Amy Hightower (Lea Thompson) has a funny turn whilst tending the farm she immediately senses something's not right and visits the doctor. It is bad news and she is given just a couple of months to live but being the practical pioneer woman that she is decides she must find a new woman to marry her husband Martin (Peter Weller) and take care of their four children. It is not an easy task as men far out weigh the eligible women in the area and those just coming of age are often already arranged and some paid for whilst widows often already have another man before they have even buried their husbands. After Martin rejects one widow as she don't give him the tingle Amy goes further field to Cedar Springs and ends up meeting Pearl (Farrah Fawcett) a prostitute who agrees to her unusual proposal.
I've watched a few "who will take care of my children" movies which focus on a woman who knows she is dying trying to find a replacement for her when she is gone but none are like "The Substitute Wife". And the reason is not just because "The Substitute Wife" is a western set in pioneer country but because whilst it has the expected emotional side of things when it comes to Amy dealing with a new woman in her husband's life it also has a humorous side which whilst unexpected certainly is effective.
So what does that mean? Well as we watch Amy try and find her replacement we get the humour of Martin rejecting one widow for not giving him the tingle and then his shock when Amy tells him that Pearl is a whore. Between the various set ups, the simply humorous dialogue and the nice use of music there are plenty of smile moments. And they are not just from Martin dealing with Pearl but also with Pearl not use to the pioneer ways such as collecting Buffalo droppings for fuel.
But "The Substitute Wife" is not all about the comedy of the situation as it also has the emotional side as Amy has to deal with the situation that her husband and children start to warm to Pearl. I wouldn't say that "The Substitute Wife" does the best job of making that emotion really hard hitting but it has a tenderness which works better alongside the humour.
What this all boils down to is that "The Substitute Wife" is a touching take on the "who will take care of my children" theme but one which does a much better job of ploughing the humour of the unusual set up of the prostitute, the pioneer woman and her husband