The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

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Horns (2013) Review

Horns (2013)

Directed by Alexandre Aja

Based on Horns by Joe Hill

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, David Morse, Sabrina Carpenter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Horns is an American dark fantasy horror-comedy film directed by Alexandre Aja, loosely based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. Daniel Radcliffe stars as a man who is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and uses his newly discovered paranormal abilities to uncover the real killer.

My Opinion:

Okay, so I watched this movie after reading the book because I of course wanted to see how they’d adapt such a weird story (you can read my review of the book HERE). I know that movies are rarely as good as the books but they did a pretty poor job with this adaptation. It started out pretty good, too, so it was disappointing that it fell apart.

Yes, we have Harry Potter playing Ig, a guy who grows Devil horns. And has sex! NO! Do NOT have sex, Daniel Radcliffe! That’s just really disturbing – you’re a little kid. And Juno Temple… is it just me or is that girl annoying? I suppose she wasn’t too bad in this, though, as she was kind of how I pictured Merrin. She’s famous because her dad (Julien Temple) is famous. Can we just talk about his music documentary/music video work instead? That’s far more interesting than Horns. My husband told me he likes it more when I go off on a tangent, like when I “reviewed” Primer and ended up talking about Weebles. Really?? Surely people find that annoying! Just Google Julien Temple if you don’t know him – besides things like his Sex Pistols documentaries, he directed far more music videos than I realized (videos for Judas Priest, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Depeche Mode, etc etc, and that David Bowie movie Absolute Beginners). Oh, and check out my chat with Hard Ticket To Home Video’s Brian of Billy Idol’s White Wedding video HERE (which wasn’t directed by Temple – I’m just whoring my Music Video Friday posts that only I & two other bloggers like). 😉

Right! Horns. I think the movie captured the love story between Ig & Merrin pretty well, which was good as that’s what I liked the most about the book. But it did a terrible job with all the other characters. As always, I won’t spoil the story but the two other biggest characters are probably Ig’s brother Terry & Ig’s friend Lee (who couldn’t look more different from how he’s described in the book). Their stories were changed quite a bit and they got no character development at all in the movie. I hated the changes as they didn’t really seem like the type that were necessary to save on time or whatever (I let some changes slide as I know it’s hard to squeeze a long book into a short movie). For those seeing the movie only, I think you’ve totally missed out on most of the characters’ motivations for doing the things they did.

And Heather Graham couldn’t have felt more out of place! They changed & made her role far bigger than it was in the book and I’m afraid to say that she came across as quite desperate in this & her acting was just embarrassing. It makes me sad to say that – I kind of like Heather Graham. I’m assuming she was told to act in that way, though, as Wikipedia oddly describes Horns as a horror comedy, which I don’t think is at all accurate. There are a couple small dark comedy moments but don’t watch it expecting a dark comedy – it’s a supernatural murder mystery horror. It’s a very unique & original story so I suppose that’s just Hollywood trying to give it a simple classification.

Despite my complaints, I did like this movie okay. I’m going to be picky as I liked the book but, trying to look at it as someone who hasn’t read the book would, I think it’s a decent enough film. It does try a little too hard to be “cool” but I think that’s pretty common for movies aimed at twentysomethings. Yes, like Joe Hill’s books are very much aimed at a younger generation than those older fans of his dad’s (Stephen King) work, this movie very obviously knows its specific target audience. Which is fine – I’m sure a lot of now-adults who grew up with Harry Potter love this movie. I think Daniel Radcliffe will have been chosen for this very reason & he’s much better than I was expecting – I ended up having no issues with him playing Ig (I read on IMDB that Shia LaBeouf was originally going to play Ig. Yuck – can you imagine?! That would’ve been a huge mistake!). Also, the movie’s soundtrack is pretty good. It was out of place half the time & far too obvious sometimes (such as using Personal Jesus) but I’m not going to complain at a soundtrack including David Bowie even though the song Heroes worked much better in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (plus David Bowie is currently the “artist you must include in your soundtrack to make your movie seem cool“).

Summary:

Horns is a decent enough horror movie if you’re looking for a different sort of story that you’ve not seen in a thousand other films (that’s usually my biggest complaint with horror movies such as Mama). Don’t get the wrong idea when I say it’s aimed at twentysomethings who grew up with Harry Potter – it’s a dark film & very much a “horror”. I was surprised when looking up the director’s other work (The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors, Piranha 3D(!), and the ultra-violent Switchblade Romance which has been on my list to watch for the blog every October but I still haven’t because I’m a wuss). Well, Horns is less extreme than any of those. I far preferred the book, of course, but at least they got the central love story right in the movie even if they made a mess of everything else. I’d actually recommend only watching the movie with this one if you’re not much of a book person – you’ll enjoy the movie more that way. If you are a book person, definitely read the book first.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Here’s a Julien Temple video! This song is stuck in my head now. Judas Priest – Breaking The Law: