Some times a film hits close to home because the emotional geography reflects what’s going on in your life. The Handmaid’s Tale hits close to my home since it was shot in Raleigh and Durham back in 1989. Nothing more fun than seeing what the area would look like in a dystopian future. How easily the American Tobacco Campus next to the Durham Bulls ballpark could be converted into a holding and sorting space for political prisoners. Did you ever wonder what your bus station could look like if it was under attack by rebels? Could Duke Chapel be improved by hosting public hangings? The Handmaid’s Tale gives a sense of how easily things can go to Hell.
After a revolution, the Republic of Gilead has been formed. The place is run as a hardcore Christian theocracy based heavily on the Old Testament. Kate (Patty Hearst‘s Natasha Richardson), her husband and daughter are attempting to escape the place when they are captured. Kate gets separated from her daughter. Because of pollution and things used in the war, a majority of the population is sterile. Kate gets forced into the Handmaid’s program. She along with other fertile women are forced to have the children of Gilead’s leading figures who have infertile wives. It is there she befriends Moira (Downton Abbey‘s Elizabeth McGovern as they plot for something better than the fate that Aunt Lydia (L.A. Story‘s Victoria Tennant) is preparing them to serve. Kate gets assigned to a major player in the government known as Commander (Godfather‘s Robert Duvall). His wife (Chinatown‘s Faye Dunaway) is not happy with Kate arriving. But she must do what the new society demands. This leads to the most unpleasurable threesome scene in cinema history since the wife just wants her husband to take zero pleasure in their arrangement. Kate discovers that the Commander’s Holy Roller attitude is an act. She also finds out that the Commander is firing blanks. If she doesn’t get pregnant she will be in trouble. She seems to have found a friend in the Commander’s chauffer (Elementary‘s Aidan Quinn). She wants to find her daughter and escape from this nightmare, but the slightest wrong move can lead to a public hanging.
The Handmaid’s Tale gets more relevant as more people seem to think of a Christian theocracy is a great idea. Quite a few pundits on TV news would view this movie as a brave new world as long as they turn it off after the Commander takes Kate to the sin den to party. Richardson plays Kate as strong enough to resist and smart enough to not do something stupid. Duvall is all charm and B.S. as the Commander who isn’t any Holier than the sinners he oppresses. The film was a prestige production with director Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) using a script from Harold Pinter ( The Servant) adapted from Margaret Atwood’s best selling novel. The film wasn’t a hit when it was originally released. But sometimes its all about timing. Now seems to be a perfect time to sit back and watch the future that quite a few people believe will save us all.
The use of spaces around Raleigh and Durham heighten the fears. Even the most casual of basketball fans can be shocked seeing Duke’s iconic chapel being framed with a hung body. One of the strangest things about the film is that the mansion used as the Commander’s house is the place where Michael Peterson killed his wife in 2001. This murder case was featured in the mini-series The Staircase. Bad things can happy in picturesque places.
The videos is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p image brings out the details in the locations. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. You’ll be in the middle of a pack of Handmaids out for blood. The movie is subtitled.
DVD has the movie. You can loan this out to your friends.
Trailer sets up a world you don’t want to happen.
Shout! Select presents The Handmaid’s Tale. Directed by: Volker Schlöndorff. Screenplay by: Harold Pinter. Starring: Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall. Running Time: 109 minutes. Rated: R. Released: April 18, 2017.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.