A blog about my favourite movies, music, and TV.

26 March 2009

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)




I'd been put off watching this one as I'd heard that it was pretty bad, but somehow the idea of one woman's struggle against a futuristic fascist neo-Con regime was ultimately too hard to resist. The late Natasha Richardson stars as Offred, a woman conscripted to be a surrogate mother to the wealthy and powerful as the majority of women (an men) have been sterilised due to nuclear fallout. Faye Dunaway stars as Serena Joy, the tortured baron wife of The Commander (Robert Duval).



Futuristic societies are notoriously difficult to pull off on a low budget, it's obvious that the people behind The Handmaid's Tale really tried hard, but it would probably have been better to downplay that part of the story in my opinion. Effects and sets aside, this is movie plays with a lot of interesting concepts about gender and society, and in many ways has a lot of cultural resonance with our society such as the way women are subjogated, objectified and even commodified, as well as the New Right's obsession with providing justification for their actions by making reference to the Bible.

What I thought was quite appealing about this movie was how extremely camp it was at times, the scenes at the Handmaid's school and those ridiculous sex scenes involving the three leads! What was so interesting was how this campiness was occasionally mixed in to create some very sinister and violent scenes, which were quite unsettling, particular one scene involving a very over the top hanging ceremony. Considering the people involved in this movie, it was adapted by British play write Harold Pinter, from Margaret Atwood's novel, the crudity and overtly labored points are, I think, an attempt to be ironic and a bit of a piss take of the kind of tactics characters like The Commander might have used to create his new world order. It's a great idea, but the aforementioned budgetary restricitions might lead one to think that it was just rushed!



The acting is rather good too, Faye Dunaway had stopped channelling Mommie Dearest by this point and she puts in a great performance. Her character was a former celebrity and I couldn't help but burst out laughing when she's watching a video of herself singing Amazing Grace, wistfully! She looks brilliant too, so regal, she always plays devious bitches so well. Natasha Richardson is good too, she obviously understood her role and her almost bland portrayal of the Handmaid is very well done, in fact everyone is good. I thought Elizabeth McGovern did a particularly great job as a fellow inmate at the Handmaid's School. All in all this well worth a watch, particularly if you are interested in gender and political issues. I found it 'On Demand' on cable, but it's also on DVD.

29 comments:

undisco_me said...

My favourite book; unfortunately I've not seen too much of this film (I wonder if the security guy she nails is in it - I always imagined a silver-blond Polish type in the role..)

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