The Handmaid's Tale (1990) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Margaret Atwood's vision of a fundamentalist Christian dystopia is grimly fascinating, but much less trenchant than it might have been. It takes place in a future where pollution has rendered 99 per cent of the women in the U.S. infertile. The country is ruled by a fundamentalist Christian dictatorship, which has sequestered all fertile women to serve as breeders for sufficiently wealthy families. Made slightly after the heyday of the Christian right, the film clearly intended to do for that movement what Orwell did for Communism in 1984 -- to envision the consequences of its ideology. But, the film's imagination is limited, and concentrating as much as it does on the mandated child-bearing relationship of Robert Duvall, Natasha Richardson, and Faye Dunaway, it seems less a satire of a madly conservative theocracy than the more banal story of a maid trying to avoid her boss' advances. Schlondorff does little to enhance the film's apocalyptic intentions, shooting and framing much of it like a gothic romance gone awry. Duvall and Dunaway are as effective as they can be within the ritualized framework of their characters, but Richardon is strangely pallid as an ostensible rebel. Elizabeth McGovern has the best of it as a free-spirited "gender traitor" or gay woman, and her few scenes come as a welcome relief.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Harold Pinter
In Theaters:
On DVD: Dec 11, 2001
HBO Video


Natasha Richardson
as Kate /Offred
Robert Duvall
as Commander
Faye Dunaway
as Serena Joy
Victoria Tennant
as Aunt Lydia
Traci Lind
as Ofwarren/Janine
Zoey Wilson
as Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby
as Aunt Elizabeth
Julian Bell
as TV Announcer
Gary Bullock
as Officer on bus
Ed Grady
as Old man
Jim Grimshaw
as Eye in van
Tom McGovern
as Guard #2
Bill Owen
as TV Announcer
Robert Pentz
as Guard #1
Linda Pierce
as Another wife
Muse Watson
as Guardian
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Handmaid's Tale

Critic Reviews for The Handmaid's Tale

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (7)

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | March 9, 1990
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Handmaid's Tale

The best thing to be said about this is that Natasha Richardson is really, really beautiful in the film. What a dull adaptation of a slightly less dull novel.

Jennifer Xu

Super Reviewer

The film adaptation of a dystopian future as envisaged by Margaret Atwood. Part morality tale, and part cautionary, told with a touch of intrigue. Natasha Richardson plays a woman caught in a web of moral rationalization and becomes the chosen vessel for the Commander's (Robert Duvall) seed. His wife (Faye Dunaway) holds the reigns of power. This film does not hold up well, as most tales of the future do not. The prop master is limited in what technology he can predict and therefore the film looks dated. However, the moral and religious climate still makes the basic premise a possibility and for that, the story still resonates. Well done, but this viewer would recommend the book over this. The three main actors do a credible job, as do the supporting actors, Aidan Quinn and Elizabeth McGovern.

Mark Abell
Mark Abell

Super Reviewer

The screenplay and the film fall short of Margaret Atwood's novel. It seems more like Lifetime porn than a disturbing look at a possible future. Disappointing.

Juli Ryan

Super Reviewer

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