Holy ovaries!

Praise be.I’m not sure why I’ve been going around for years with the impression that The Handmaid’s Tale was a movie I needed to see. Maybe I was confusing it with the book (which I can guarantee I won’t be reading), or because I had a crush on Natasha Richardson. Whatever the reason, the damage is done now. I rented it and watched it, more to get it out of my queue than any real desire to see it.

Rain suggested that if you watch it as a comedy, it’s hilarious. I wouldn’t go that far. While there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, there was too much dead time.

The way I got through it was by imagining what it was like watching the dailies for each scene as the movie was being made. I pictured a militant feminist producer (I’m thinking Rachel Dratch’s character from “30 Rock”) sitting in the screening room, smoking a big stogie and wearing a “US Out of My Uterus” T-shirt. Her crew — assembled in equal parts from the makers of Sci Fi channel original movies and Cinemax softcore porn — would watch in anticipation for her reaction. After each scene she’d sit and think a moment, then start doing the golf clap that builds in intensity as she barks in a husky, Amy Ray voice, “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”

(It’s also kind of amusing to imagine that it was made by the Trinity Broadcasting Network as a Left Behind-style cautionary tale, and they just can’t understand why people are interpreting it as satire of a dystopian future.)

Seriously, The Handmaid’s Tale is even less subtle than a Michael Moore movie. The message is pounded into you so hard and so clumsily you feel like you should be watching the movie wearing a red veil and lying in Faye Dunaway’s lap. (Which, coincidentally, is how I was watching the movie.)

Even though I didn’t expect to like it, I was still trying to be halfway receptive to the message, seeing as how I’m mostly liberal and all. But it was like riding a bucking bronco, the movie was trying so hard to lose me. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment they lost me for good, but it came down to one of four scenes:

  1. Natasha Richardson’s reaction to Robert Duvall’s suggestion that they play Scrabble. She actually rolls her eyes, sitcom style. I expected her to do the Wilma Flintstone double-take, complete with accompanying sound effect.
  2. When they go to the racy nightclub, and a cheerleading squad is dancing to a Fine Young Cannibals song. It was just comically dated and gross. Even Eyes Wide Shut did a better job suggesting a sexy, decadent party.
  3. When Elizabeth McGovern’s character explains that they cut off (or just ruined? it was hard to tell) her hands because you don’t need hands for her job, as a sex worker. I’ll repeat that: don’t need your hands, as a sex worker.
  4. When the heroine of our strong-woman feminist tale goes absolutely apeshit when she hears she’ll have to leave without her f-buddy, I mean the man she loves deeply after talking to for about 10 minutes and having arranged sex with.

The unsettling part is that we’re actually closer to a real theocracy in America than we were in the Thatcher/Reagan years in which the book was published, and still the movie seems completely ludicrous.