The Handmaid's Tale

Rated R 109 minutes 1990

This 1990 adaptation of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel takes place after a right-wing fundamentalist takeover of the U.S. government, when a series of ecological disasters have rendered most women infertile and the female population are herded like cattle and assigned the obligatory roles of wives, domestics, or child bearers called "handmaids." Scripted by Harold Pinter and directed by Volker Schlöndorff, this is a provocative yet disappointingly realized SF cautionary tale, handicapped by an inadequate lead performance by Natasha Richardson, a somewhat routine plot, and a generally flat cast of characters. Tom Walsh's production design helps give the settings a subtle day-after-tomorrow appearance that recalls Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451, and Robert Duvall does a good job as the glib "commander" Richardson is assigned to be impregnated by. Faye Dunaway projects her usual intensity as his wife, and Elizabeth McGovern is striking as a lesbian rebel.

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