Citizen Ruth (1996)

R   |    |  Comedy, Drama

Citizen Ruth (1996) Poster

An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.

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  • Burt Reynolds co-stars as Blaine Gibbons
  • Rachel & Ruth
  • Director & Co-writer Alexander Payne with Laura Dern
  • Director and co-writer Alexander Payne
  • Burt Reynolds in Citizen Ruth (1996)
  • Tippi Hedren co-stars as Jessica Weiss

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11 September 2012 | StevePulaski
| Uncommonly mature with its centrist ideology
Before writer/director Alexander Payne was making deep, intimate pictures centered around eccentric humans playing a little game called "Life," he was concocting explosive satires, bursting at the seams with originality and charm. His directorial debut, Citizen Ruth, is a little stroll through the eclectic-side of his days.

Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern) is a rather despicable woman. She has had multiple kids and has been addicted to inhaling substances from glue to patio sealant for years now. When she discovers she is pregnant again, she tosses around the idea of having an abortion, so as not to give birth to another unfortunate, helpless soul. Having no family and no one to turn to for advice, she finds herself intrusively manipulated by pro-life and pro-choice groups from all walks of life, and his taken in by a well-meaning couple, played by Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place. They will provide her with everything she could need, including protection from the media, so long as she doesn't give into the abortion.

The remainder of the film centers around the asinine attention the media pays to Ruth and her "family," and how she may be forcefully committed to one side because of their obnoxious manipulation.

What is truly amazing, however, is how Citizen Ruth manages to perfectly keep a centrist viewpoint, showing both sides at their utmost ridiculous. Never does the film show a direct bias. From watching this, we can sort of believe that Payne's view on the entire abortion issue is simplified to something along the lines of, "both sides are equally right and equally bizarre."

Dern here is spectacularly, embodying a character void of any likability traits and sophistication as a whole. She is an unkempt, sorry mess of a woman and Payne portrays her exactly as that. While it may not be the most complete film out there, or even one of the funniest satires (especially when you put to along side Election, Payne's sophomore effort), it still is a reasonable compliment to say that Citizen Ruth does a splendid job of keeping a film about a controversial issue neutral and viable throughout its runtime.

Starring: Laura Dern, Kurtwood Smith, and Mary Kay Place. Directed by: Alexander Payne.

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