“The Handmaid’s Tale” is another dystopian view of the not so distant future. For a summary, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid's_Tale_(film). Natasha Richardson stars, along with Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, the latter with a terrible black hair color. In the story, the women of the Republic of Gilead (which looks alot like New England) have been made sterile as a result of pollution. Gilead seems to be the good o’ US of A after a fundamentalist revolution. Duvall’s character says that the revolution was necessary to stop the influence of the liberals, big-government worshippers, atheists, and homosexuals. Does any of this sound familiar? Anyway, Richardson plays Kate who is abducted while mistakenly crossing into Gilead’s borders. Her husband was killed, and she becomes a Handmaid, that is, a still-fertile woman whose job is to spawn with one of Gilead’s men, in this case, the Commander (Duvall). The procedure is that the couple has intercourse while the barren wife (Dunaway) watches and holds onto the handmaid’s hands. The procedure is designed so that the wife can ensure that nothing affectional goes on. I am not sure why in vitro-fertilization, or artificial insemination would not have worked just as well, except that it would not have been as interesting and oddly un-erotic.
I did not care for the movie much. The premise is interesting and is probably is consistent with men’s fantasies to have sex without attachment. But, Richardson just did not seem convincing. While Jane could not openly express her feelings because of the nature of the governing regime, Richardson did not effectively convey Jane’s simultaneous public stoicism and private anger, angst, and sadness over losing her husband and daughter. Dunaway was great as the conflicted wife, who had to make her life meaningful through her flower garden. Duvall was very good as the in-charge, macho, slimy Commander, who wanted both sex and affection. Aidan Quinn served as a love interest for Richardson, but this relationship was not so intimate that Jane shared her feelings about her losses. As a result, the relationship seemed cold and not compelling.
The fundamental problem with the film was that it was as sterile as Gilead’s woman. There was little emotion with which to identify and Richardson did nothing to heat it up.
I would like to see the film redone with today’s sensibilities and a more mature actress who could find the right mix of public aloofness and private turmoil. Likely the story will not be retold, however, since it wouldn’t require guns, computer graphics, and a very loud soundtrack.