- Director: Mike Barker et al.
- Writer: Margaret Atwood; Bruce Miller
- Producer: Joseph Boccia
For a television production, The Handmaid's Tale is almost faultless...although, thoroughly joyless. This is a hard-watch from beginning to whenever it ends.
It almost seems like sacrilege to criticise this much-lauded, much-expanded adaptation of Margaret Atwwood's eponymous novel...but, when you stretch something this good too far...something has to give. And that 'give' is credibility...
The set-up of Gilead as a partiarchal, totalitarian, fundamentalist Christian Theocracy is as vague as the notion that this could actually happen...those who inhabit Gilead were not born in its all-protective bubble...they [all] have [very] recent memories of their lost freedoms. Surely, the most powerful form of activism is fighting for those rights and freedoms you once had...there's not a lot of fighting going on here...just day-in, day-out misery and drudgery...and, [duty-bound] rape!
C'mon...everyone would be fleeing [en masse] across the border [live or die trying] to the all-free, all-partying Canada...rather than remain in this bible-bashing-expanded-belt...Atwood is herself Canadian...not just a hint of anti-Americanism...but, a great big dollop.
The Handmaid's Tale is anti-many-things...religion, America, feminism and men!
For the sake of argument let's just accept Gilead as it is...'tis a fiction aferall, suspend that there disbelief. However...the euphemistically named 'The Ceremony' is a whole different ball-game... men-of-status are required to perform perfunctory acts of routine copulation with neither foreplay nor stimulation [nor consent]. Admittedly, there are a few [men] who could rise in [and relish] such circumstances...but, on the whole, no! There is one thing that women know absolutely nothing about and that is the psyche of the penis. Hell, men don't know anything about it either...because, the penis has a wholly unpredictable mind of its own! There are those who are ruled by the penis and those who are slaves to it...throw in some rock hard religion and dystopia comes a-knocking!
Now, there's something mighty bewildering about this tale, it would seem [more radical?!?] feminists have adopted it as their raison d'être - how on earth did they manage to spin that one around? For...this story highlights exactly what's wrong with feminism...women! Women are feminism's greatest enemy, the vast majority of women recoil at the very mention of the word and Margaret Atwood is - on file - not a feminist. No matter how many feminists interpret her work as being feminist, it is not feminist and neither is this adaptation. Want more evidence? Just look at June/Offred's [feminist] mother...a card-carrying, clichéd caricature - a rather cruel depiction of how a feminist is perceived by other [non-feminist] women...without empathy.
The most terrifying aspect about this production is the lack of empathy...when empathy runs so low within the sexes, it's hard to imagine how it could exist between the sexes...when that happens, dystopia comes a-knocking!
Yes, this handmaid's tale is bleak...but, beautiful. Apart from quite a few jarring camera jolts, the cinematography is as visual as a well-curated gallery. Production and lighting design don't come much better than this...it's artistry. A little quibble, Elisabeth Moss is - perhaps - too old for the role...but, if you haven't read the book, it won't matter. She delivers a controlled and measured performance - some will argue that she needed to give more. But, here...less is more. Gilead is not the place to show [overt] emotion.
The Handmaid's Tale will probably become a victim of its own success...as it over-stretches and over-reaches the story, something will give and that will be interest. Already the series is a little repetitive...rapes, escapes, gets caughts and that's your lot! Repeat.
And then...there's the last episode of Series 2...talk about symphonic emotion! This tale is going down a whole new avenue. Series 3 can't come soon enough!
Adapted from the classic novel by Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale is the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States. Facing environmental disasters and a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a twisted fundamentalism in its militarized ‘return to traditional values'. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s household, one of the caste of women forced into sexual servitude as a last desperate attempt to repopulate the world. In this terrifying society, Offred must navigate between Commanders, their cruel Wives, domestic Marthas, and her fellow Handmaids – where anyone could be a spy for Gilead – all with one goal: to survive and find the daughter that was taken from her.