The Handmaid's Tale - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Handmaid's Tale Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 28, 2011
The best thing to be said about this is that Natasha Richardson is really, really beautiful in the film. What a dull adaptation of a slightly less dull novel.
Super Reviewer
June 3, 2009
The film adaptation of a dystopian future as envisaged by Margaret Atwood. Part morality tale, and part cautionary, told with a touch of intrigue. Natasha Richardson plays a woman caught in a web of moral rationalization and becomes the chosen vessel for the Commander's (Robert Duvall) seed. His wife (Faye Dunaway) holds the reigns of power. This film does not hold up well, as most tales of the future do not. The prop master is limited in what technology he can predict and therefore the film looks dated. However, the moral and religious climate still makes the basic premise a possibility and for that, the story still resonates. Well done, but this viewer would recommend the book over this. The three main actors do a credible job, as do the supporting actors, Aidan Quinn and Elizabeth McGovern.
Super Reviewer
January 3, 2010
The screenplay and the film fall short of Margaret Atwood's novel. It seems more like Lifetime porn than a disturbing look at a possible future. Disappointing.
½ January 21, 2015
I think the movie abridged to much from the book to be good. Many elements that connected you (or disconnected you) from the characters were missing. Not a fair representation of the book at all.
½ July 14, 2012
Tale leaves you with an uneasy feeling. I love Duvall and he plays his role well. The movie has a futuristic mood about it but seems believable which is what makes it a chilling tale.
February 12, 2011
After reading the book in my senior English class, I didn't think the story could get much worse. I was wrong. Very wrong. Not only does the movie come across as even more preachy and boring than the book, which is no easy feat, it also fails to deliver on any cinematic level.
½ November 6, 2009
Very controversial feminest film. To think that woman were ever used as baby makers and how little value was placed on them as human beings. In some cultures this attitude actually still exists, slavery and bigitry in any form sickens me. Great job on this film.
March 30, 2009
It doesn't fastenate me the way it did a decade ago. Still it was nice to rewatch her great early performance so soon after her passing.
½ March 29, 2009
I've read the book. Many times, in fact. We will, therefore, be getting into a real in-depth examination of how the movie relates to the book--and where it falls short. Now, I don't have the crazy hate for the movie that some people seem to; it's actually a better adaptation than I think we have any reason to hope for. However, there are some major places where I think the movie fails us. I understand the reason for some of them--apparently, the reason the Handmaids' uniforms are so far off is that they couldn't afford to buy better ones; these were bought off the rack at Sears--but I think that, in some places where we are supposed to be given a greater connection to the story by the changes, it detracts from the power of the story. But more on that anon.

In the not-too distant future, the United States has fallen and been replaced by the Republic of Gilead. Gilead is a completely theocratic society which has taken advantage of, among other things, the incredible decrease in fertility among women. (Men are not tested.) There are also the dreaded Colonies, a place where unwanted people--mostly women--are sent to clean up what is probably horrific radioactive waste, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were chemical contamination there as well. Many young, fertile women have been rescued from the prospect of the Colonies by the choice to become a Handmaid, a nameless, veiled concubine to a military official whose wife cannot bear her own children. The Handmaids will take their commander's name--Ofglen (Blanche Baker), Ofwarren (Traci Lind, whose character's real name is Janine), and of course Offred (Natasha Richardson, called Kate in the movie and nameless in the book, more on which anon). Offred is brought into the house of a military commander (presumably named Fred and played by Robert Duvall) and his wife, Serena Joy (Faye Dunaway), a former televangelist now with no power of her own, no importance of her own.

So let's talk about that name. In the book, Offred is not entirely a person. She is a past and a present; she has no future that she can imagine. She had a wild, hippy libber mother; okay, I understand why her mother (also nameless) isn't in the movie. They didn't really have time for her--though there could have been a throwaway line in the scene where Aunt Lydia (Victoria Tennant) is showing them scenes of old women's rights rallies. I even understand why her awesome, free-spirited lesbian friend (Moira, played by Elizabeth McGovern), gets reduced in scope to a woman she befriends at the Red Center. That doesn't bother me. But to give Offred a name is to give her the illusion of control over her life. In reality, she has none. Her husband is almost certainly dead. Her child has been taken from her and given to a new family; she is almost certainly being brought up to believe that she was born to them. The Commander can have her sent to the Colonies. Serena Joy can probably have her killed. She has her affair with Nick (Aidan Quinn), but that can bring death to them both. And in case there isn't enough awareness of the tenuous nature of her situation, she gets to watch Janine go crazy. And even if all of that goes smoothly, it means nothing if she doesn't have a child, and it won't matter if it's the Commander's fault and not hers.

Yeah. That's a lot of weight to put on one word. But surely the point of a Handmaid is the surrender of self to the Greater Good. Janine's baby is taken from her scant moments after she is born, and we are assured in the book that Janine will be sent to a new house soon to share her fertility. (It's also pretty strongly implied in the book that Janine "used a doctor." Indeed, it might even have been Janine--it's been a while since I read the book, so I can't remember for sure--who is the one executed for "fornication.") It is said that no Handmaid who has given birth to a healthy baby will ever be declared an "unwoman," but I somehow don't picture an old-Handmaids' home for post-menopausal women. Maybe they'd become Marthas, but I doubt it. Then again, the ending of the book is left uncertain, another thing I thought important about the book that is changed for the movie. Indeed, the main changes that bother me in the movie--even that costume change, really--tend to be issues of hope and empowerment for Offred.

I do actually like the movie. I think it is, with those minor exceptions, the best that can be done with a Hollywood movie. Certainly the best that can be done with a Hollywood movie that's 109 minutes long. The origins of Gilead are left vague, but we don't really need them in order to understand Offred's life. While the setting isn't Margaret Atwood's intended Cambridge (Harvard won't let you film there, for one), it does have the feel I pictured when I read the book. In fact, I hadn't known that she meant it to be Harvard in the first place. The Commander's house is a big, spacious one with broad green lawns and sunny gardens. The Marthas seem to be good housekeepers, for one, and likely to spoil any child Offred can give them, for another. The Gilead presented in the movie seems complete, whatever the other failings.

Incidentally, I wrote this review into backlog. Between the time it was written and the time it was posted, star Natasha Richardson died. She did other things; she did other things I've seen. However, I think that, when I think of her, I will not think of her from [i]Evening[/i], which you know I didn't like. I will not think of her as Liam Neeson's wife, because I didn't know she was. I will think of her as Offred, because she did an excellent job in the role.
½ March 8, 2009
Follows one woman's story in a future where women are enslaved and society's sins are purified through military occupation.
The cast makes it interesting at times, but overall a forgettable film.
October 14, 2008
If you haven't already picked up the book, do that! Though the movie was nowhere as deep and meaningful as the book, it tries to stay true on some points. Three stars for trying.
June 27, 2008
this was a very interesting movie about the future and having trouble bearing children.....very
June 21, 2007
Very interesting and well-acted story about a woman who has to live a very tough and troubled life. It held my interest well the whole time.
½ October 19, 2007
I haven't read the book, so I had no problems with the movie. Very similar to Children of Men, in terms of basic storyline.
October 1, 2007
this is one of my favorite movies. this movie totally made you think about what it would be like to deal with that kind of society. Great love story.
½ May 8, 2007
This movie was not as good as the book. The book scared the heck out of me. REALLY good book! OK movie.
April 10, 2007
A well done film about a futuristic United States that is being runned by a fascist theologist government, the nation is called the Republic of Gilead, an ecological disaster caused a lot of women and men to be sterile and the few fertile ones are used as breeders. A great film based on the novel by Margaret Atwood.
March 28, 2007
I give this such a high rating because I saw it as a young girl, and it's basic story and images stuck with me through adulthood-until I was forced to use what I remembered of the movie to figure out the title. Haunting.
December 6, 2006
This is a very powerful drama that I am a big fan of...The acting in this film is superb and it is one of the many films that was shot in North Carolina...
½ March 29, 2016
I could see this actually happening if the extreme right took over.....
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