The Handmaid's Tale

"Very Good"

The Handmaid's Tale Review


Margaret Atwood's highly regarded novel came to the screen in 1990 in an uneven yet still gripping production (newly released on DVD). Natasha Richardson makes perhaps the biggest impact in her career as Offred, the "handmaid" at the center of a dystopic future where ultra-right wing factions are in control of the government, martial law rules, and biological agents have rendered 99% of women sterile. Those women who are still fertile and have been convicted of some crime, however ridiculous, become handmaids, stripped from their lives and sentenced to service the remaining rich and powerful, whose wives can't conceive children.

Offred finds herself at the mercy of a good-natured but subtly manipulative commander (Robert Duvall) and his faded-star wife Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway). And soon enough she slips her way into an underground aiming to overthrow the fascist regime.

Atwood's tale is brilliant, but a little something is missing in its translation to the screen. The major flaw is with the direction by Volker Schlöndorff (Palmetto, tons of German films you've never heard of), who isn't exactly the most renowned director on the planet and is considerably out of his element with this extremely challenging material. The movie ends up as a good one, but the nearly-farcical future-shock makes you inevitably compare it to Brazil, and that's a comparison that few films can stand up to. Never mind the directing talent, Schlöndorff simply doesn't have the budget to pull off a realistic version of even the near-future. The movie is fairly solid up until Offred's wholesale recruitment into the resistence, whereupon the film starts to slip into oddity.

The ending comes suddenly, reminding us that two hours have passed and we haven't reached a resolution. And it doesn't entirely satisfy, either. The ending feels way too much like the "happy ending" tacked onto Brazil -- and which ultimately became a cinematic joke (see the Criterion release of that film for an in-depth look at this phenomenon). Still, it's a pretty good movie if for no other reason than its sheer guts at calling out the religious right while still maintaining a sense of sophistication. That's rare indeed.



The Handmaid's Tale

Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Friday 9th March 1990

Distributed by: HBO Video

Production compaines: Bioskop Film, Cinecom Entertainment Group, Cinetudes Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 10

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Volker Schlöndorff

Producer:

Starring: as Kate / Offred, as Serena Joy, as The Commander, as Nick, as Moira, as Aunt Lydia, as Ofglen, as Janine / Ofwarren, Kathryn Doby as Aunt Elizabeth, Reiner Schöne as Luke (as Rainer Schoene), Gary Bullock as Officer on bus

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.