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Archive for March 16th, 2018

by Dennis Polifroni

When one considers how frightening the prospects of 8 years of the Trump administation can be, with repeals of existing bills and advancements made during Obama’s time as Commander-in-Chief, it’s a wonder why more people watching television aren’t talking about the parallels of Hulu/MGM’s amazing mini-series adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s revered, dystopian novel, THE HANDMAIDS TALE, and Trump’s wannabe world-dominating regime?

Atwood’s novel has always rung slightly prophetic since it was first read by an audience in 1985. However, the authors imaginings of a world gone mad under the power of a totalitarian theocracy, and the resulting oppression of women, non-whites and homosexuals thereof, has always been kept at arms length under the guise of “speculative” fiction because, certainly, something like this would only happen in a distant future as populations swelled to hysterical proportions and government, as we know it, couldn’t handle the overflow.

Adapted into a pretty effective little film in 1990 (starring the late Natasha Richardson in the title role), Atwood’s themes, and the horrors she imagined, seemed to lose some of their potency in a time when prosperity loomed ahead of us in the guise of Bill Clinton and his smiling positivity. Simply put, audiences agreed something like Atwoods vision COULD come true, but NOT in America, and certainly not with a leader as likeable as Mr. Clinton.

Well, now, we in the States are no longer under the watchful eye of a likeable leader. Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama are gone from the White House and, now, this painstakingly faithful TV adaptation of Atwoods most celebrated and respected work is whalloping a wake-up call of a gut-punch on us with every brilliant and chilling episode.

What makes this mini-series so successful is the luxury of time. With ten one-hour episodes, Atwoods every description, character, situation and plot point gets the attention it deserves and a nightmare landscape is created before us. Like the novel, the enormity of the socio-political/religious extremism unfolds like a wilting rose. At first its a single, beautiful petal falling to the ground but, by the time the series truly hits its stride in the third, very stomach-knotting episode, the show takes on the guise of the entire flower gone ash black with decay. Frankly, and much of the shows success can be attributed to the watchful eye of head writer/series creator Bruce Miller, whose intent is to put EVERY word of Atwoods novel on the screen, I’ve rarely seen a novel-to-screen adaptation that is as concerned with creating its world as much as it is in espousing its message. In fact, its because of Miller’s meticulous eye for detail, particularly Atwood’s descriptive detail, that the world of this series is accepted by the viewer immediately and without question. There’s a sense of queasy realism in the suppositions and I can only guess that much of what is being splayed all over the papers since Trump and his thuggish cronies took the run for the big seat only inspired Miller to even greater heights of finite adaptation.

THE HANDMAIDS TALE is a chilling tale brought meticulously to life by all involved in the production. That, in and of itself, is rather chilling to comprehend.

Im sure Miller is proud of his accomplishment. I’m sure he’s thrilled with the high praise his sweat has brought him. I just wonder if his pleasure with the show is slightly tainted by the idea that what he’s portraying might be an inevitable result of stupidity and extremism that’s beginning to run rampant under the big orange orangutan sitting in the White House?

THE HANDMAIDS TALE

(2017 U.S.A. Hulu/DVD/Blu)

p. Bruce Miller, Warren Littlefield, Reed Morano, Daniel Wilson, Fran Sears, Ilene Chaiken, Margaret Atwood, Elisabeth Moss  developed. Bruce Miller  d. Reed Morano, Mike Barker, Floria Sigismondi, Kate Dennis, Kari Skogland.  w. Bruce Miller, Margaret Atwood, Leila Gerstein, Dorothy Fortenberry, Wendy Straker Hauser, Lynn Renee Maxcy, Kira Snyder, Eric Tuchman  based on the book by. Margaret Atwood  creative consult. Margaret Atwood  photo. Colin Watkinson   art. Julie Berghoff, Evan Webber, Sophie Neudorfer  m. Adam Taylor

Elisabeth Moss (June Osborne/Offred), Yvonne Strahovski (Serena Joy), Max Minghelka (Nick), Joseph Fiennes (Commander Fred Waterford), Anne Dowd (Aunt Lydia), Samira Wiley (Moira), Amanda Brugel (Rita), O. T. Fagbanele (Luke), Madeline Brewer (Janine/Offwarren) and Alexis Bledel (Emily/Offglen)

 

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