THE HANDMAIDS TALE
The Handmaid's Tale comes to the screen here. The film holds a good deal of respectable clout with names like celebrated playwright Harold Pinter on script and actors such as Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall attached. Despite this, the film somehow misses the mark. For one, the finesse of Atwoods often internal tale is blunted and transformed into a portrait of a Dystopian society that is all written in the large, bold colours of Hollywood making a message. There is no credible resonance to the fundamentalism the future world exists in a cultural vacuum. Characters have names like Aunt Lydia (a campy whip-cracking performance from Victoria Tennant) and Serena Joy that would seem to belong more on the cast list of an Andy Warhol film. There seems no real reason why the rituals of Ceremony with people dressed in coloured cloth and adopting various positions should have become the way they are. Moreover, the film criminally alters Margaret Atwoods ending for something more upbeat.
The Handmaid's Tale was certainly the most commercially accessible film of German director Volker Schlondorff, best known for The Tin Drum (1979). Being a director more interested in a storys images than its drama though, Schlondorff comes somewhat unstuck here. There are a few inspired moments when Schlondorff gets to open up and display his visual flair the aerial shot across the dormitory floor where the whispers of the girls introducing themselves spread around the room; or the first Ceremony with the veiled Natasha Richardson being forcibly held down on a bed between Faye Dunaways thighs while Robert Duvall performs the dispassionate act of sex.
Natasha Richardsons coy, playful acting is very much out of place in a role that requires her to become subservient and anonymous. Robert Duvall is very good, as is Faye Dunaways controlled impatient performance. Best of all is Elizabeth McGovern who gives the film a rare sparkle of colour with her warm, cynically alert performance. The film around them though is dour and never manages to come to life.
The Handmaid's Tale (2017 ) is an upcoming tv series remake starring Elisabeth Moss in the central role and with Joseph Fiennes as The Commander.