(Claude Jutra, 1981)
One nice thing about novels is they don't have theme songs - Ann Mortifee should have been deported for the disfiguring atrocity that bookends this nightmare adaptation of Margaret Atwood's 'classic'. I gather there's some metaphorical stuff about the mystery of Canadian identity buried here somewhere, but the filmmakers are clearly more interested in the gender angle, no doubt because characters are easier to market than symbols. Unfortunately, these characters remain hopelessly symbolic. I'll grant that the movie's primary concern is not why men are such insufferable bastards but why women are idiotic enough to put up with them, but we're still left with an evening full of bastards and idiots - R. H. Thomson's infantile sexist makes me reach for my revolver, Margaret Dragu shrieks when she's not whimpering, and Joseph Bottoms is impossibly vague from beginning to end. I suspect that the casting of hottie Kathleen Beller in the lead was driven by market imperatives as well - while she's not as hateful as her posse, stick her in a canoe and she comes off as exactly the lost, urbane Yankee she is. And if the ending isn't a profound act of violence against the source material, then an entire generation of Canadian literary critics have a lot to answer for.