Thursday, June 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's nightmarish Gilead was first brought to the screen in 1990. Kate (Natasha Richardson) is introduced on the run trying to escape across the border of Gilead but she is caught. Her husband is shot and her child is lost in the wilderness. She is shipped off to a camp where they are sorting through the people by race. Trucks of people are shipped away as women proven to be without illness and viable for pregnancy are sent to conditioning. Many women suffer breakdowns during the harsh treatment as the vicious tutors like Aunt Lydia (Victoria Tennant) degrade them in order to convert them to their new lifestyle. 

Once Kate shows good behavior, she is presented to the family as a potential surrogate. She will assist Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway) and the Commander (Robert Duvall) by allowing her body be used to have a baby. This forced surrogacy occurs in an odd ceremony where the wife hold the handmaid down while the husband has sex with her. The Commander takes a liking to Kate, now Offred, and plays games with her in his private office, also rewarding her with old beauty magazines. Dressed in a red uniform and a veil, Offred is allowed to go shopping amidst security guards who scan her security bracelet and a fellow handmaid Ofglen (Blanche Baker).

Some women revolt like Moira (Elizabeth McGovern) who ties up Aunt Lydia and escapes with Kate's help. Kate also begins to have sexual feelings for the assistant Nick (Aidan Quinn) and Serena Joy facilitates a late night rendezvous between Offred and Nick in order to get her pregnant. Offred learns that they don't test the men for sterility when a doctor propositions her on the operating table. Running the household are maids known as Marthas like Cora (Lucia Hartpeng) who also have a vested interest in Offred's ability to procreate with the commander.

Serena Joy informs Kate that her daughter is still alive, which upsets Kate since she is not allowed to see her. The awful of a handmaid when they do have a child is shown through Ofwarren (Traci Lind) though they leave out the gruesome removal of an eye from the book. The baby is taken from the mother and given to the women who are part of the upper class, the wives. At the birthing celebration, Ofglen whispers about a resistance as Serena Joy insists she becomes pregnant soon. In a public event, handmaids who sin are hung. To control the handmaids, they allow them to dole out punishment like when a rapist is placed in the middle of the crowd and ripped apart as Offred watches in horror. Resistance fighters blow up cars, and Ofglen gives Offred a task to kill the Commander.

The Commander allows Serena to dress up and take her out to a place where irreligious behavior is allowed, the hypocrisy evident. Nick has to drive them and his jealousy is also plain to see. Moira now lives there working as a Jezebel. When Offred returns to her room, she finds a knife and a note to kill the Commander at night. In his office, Offred cuts his throat and is caught by the men. Nick reveals that he is part of the resistance and wants to protect Offred and her baby. She lives out her life in the mountains waiting to have her child. The film is an interesting look at a horrific future that unfortunately could still be a possibility considering our strange political environment. The acting and shots have a toned down late 80s feel and a clever cast that helps to deliver the terrifying message effectively.

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