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Pitch perfect satire that leaves no side unscathed. Definitely a prime Female Anxiety Movie.
Ruth is caught in the middle of a tug-of-war of lofty ideals, but the movie itself thankfully never abandons her - I felt strangely touched by the scene where she's about to get into the helicopter and then screams at her mother about being molested as a child. It was done as an almost comedy beat but the impact was more of an "oh shit" moment. She's a pretty terrible person but at least she has reasons for it. She's far more realistic than the caricature she's painted by both the freaky fundamentalists and the granola pro-choicers.
The only downside to watching this movie is having to sit through the same arguments we've heard ad nauseum for decades. The second the movie hunkers down in the trenches it becomes pretty predictable... which isn't to say it's not enjoyable, but like you just gotta be in the mood to want to get angry about politics if you watch this.
Oh and Laura Dern is perfection.
A masterful piece of satire whose specific milieu is the 'abortion wars' , but which could apply to anything in American life these days. Laura Dern gives a fantastically unsympathetic performance as a woman who knows what she wants - and what she wants is drugs. This is the rare comedy that has improved with age.
Brilliant director Alexander Payne brings us his first feature film, tackling the very sensitive topic of abortion. As with all his other features, Payne gives us a heavy mix of pitch black humor and social commentary. A young drug addicted woman, played by Laura Dern, discovers that she's pregnant and finds herself being manipulated by both the pro-life and pro-choice people. There's definitely some interesting ideas here. Both sides are equally lampooned and provide plenty of opportunities for some decent humor. With that said however, these ideas don't appear to go much further than a surface level mockery. There's no really deep conversations going on and that's unfortunate considering Payne's other films have a knack for subtle but genuine insight. Now this would be fine if the characters were interesting but this leads to another issue: Laura Dern. For an actress who always turns in such wonderful work, it's a shame that she never quite finds her mark. She goes over the top a little too often and it's never very convincing. Fortunately for her, the supporting players (including Kurtwood Smith and Swoosie Kurtz) pick up the slack and make it work. Citizen Ruth is a mixed bag for sure. It has moments of great comedy and some fun performances, but it never truly reaches its potential.
Comedy about abortion if that's even possible.
"Citizen Ruth" is an exceptional, unforgiving satire that somehow makes a black comedy out of a hot button issue that will perhaps never stop being piping: abortion. But it doesn't pick sides, nor does it make a joke out of the seriousness of the topic. It doesn't even seem to be about abortion It is, rather, intensely focused on the flaming passion that surrounds both pro-choice and pro-life activists; lost in their determination to "win" a battle that will never be won, they easily forget about their humanity in favor of proving an unprovable point. The directorial debut of Alexander Payne ("Election," "Sideways"), "Citizen Ruth" is precise in its satire and its empirical standpoints. Never supposed to be about an "issue," Payne has stated, the film is an over-the-top study regarding the nature of fanaticism. And so he shrewdly does the unthinkable, making us question the motivations of advocates while also mixing a brutal and funny pasquinade martini.
As dauntless as the film itself, Laura Dern gallantly stars as Ruth Stoops, an unremitting fuck-up whose existence solely consists of getting high, drunk, or pregnant. As the film opens, she's having rough sex with a guy she barely knows in a flop house; as soon as they're finished, he viciously throws her out, causing her to go to the corner store and purchase some patio sealant to huff out of a paper bag in protest. The cops, who find her unconscious on the street, know her by name, and when she's taken to court a short time later, Ruth also discovers that she's pregnant. It will be her fifth child, the other four from separate fathers and living in separate homes. She's already been deemed as an unfit mother, twice. The judge is disturbed by her lack of responsibility, and propositions her with an ultimatum outside the courtroom - if she gets an abortion, he promises that he'll deal with her upcoming felony charges less severely.
Ruth has minuscule brain power and considers the idea to be fair; her mind is only changed, though, when she meets a group of pro-life activists in a holding cell, who take her under their manipulative wings and make her a poster child for the abortion debate. Soon begins a tug-of-war between pro-life and pro-choice zealots, half the movie spent with conservatives willing to bribe her with thousands of dollars to keep the child, half with left-wingers who also are unopposed to paying her off to ring victorious in a never-ending game.
Taking into consideration just how easily "Citizen Ruth" could have sunk into a pool of controversial quicksand had it just contained one problematic plot point, it's impressive how distinctly unbiased it remains throughout its length. With no obvious heroes and villains, we're absorbed by the extremism of its pro-lifers and its pro-choicers, how they're so bent on claiming Ruth as being on *their side* that they forget that a woman who can't do shit (besides losing her temper and getting hammered) will, in the end, never make a dent on why having a baby versus aborting a fetus is the *right* thing to do. Most of the film's humor stems from Ruth's stupidity, and from the way the vigorous activists around her don't actually seem to much care about her well-being - they care about their individual missions, which will never really be settled (twenty years later and the abortion topic is still as boiling). It's an endless circle, and I love the way the ending is exactly what it should be: a flippant cop-out.
The performance are all flawless, too, verging on the edge of insanity yet maintaining believability because its actors don't allow for cartoonishness. Dern is first-rate as the film's titular Ruth, never necessarily likable, but always effortlessly watchable because we're so inclined to see what idiotic actions her character will commit next, what doltish words will come out of her drugged-out mouth. Swoosie Kurtz, Kelly Preston, and M.C. Gainey are perfect as the movie's vehement pro-choicers, and Mary Kay Place, Kurtwood Smith, and Kathleen Noone are slimily saccharine as the pro-lifers. Tippi Hedren and Burt Reynolds stop by with show-stopping cameo roles.
But despite the fact that we'd expect "Citizen Ruth" to rub some people the wrong way, it is a conspicuously hilarious dark comedy that never goes too far, rather making ingenious observations that don't hit us as being brilliant until we really sit and think about them. Payne and Taylor have devised a terrific screenplay; Dern gives one of the best performances of her career.
Alexander Payne is an interesting filmmaker and I have tremendous respect for him. But sometimes, I don't find his sense of humor funny and I also don't have patience for unlikable characters with no arc either. Laura Dern is terrific and absolutely despicable as Ruth Stoops, and I admire the film's courage to tackle on such a sensitive subject matter. My problem with the film is more of a personal one, and that is this: I don't like movies that revolve around a character with no redeeming qualities. Citizen Ruth is smart and thought-provoking, but doesn't have much emotional resonance in the end.
i bet this looked fantastic as a script.
really gets the mix of humor and pathos just right no EZ task
"Citizen Ruth" mocks the misguided morals of Christian conservatives who shame, threaten, and scare women into having children they can't afford to support and attempts to mock the left with some weak jabs at hippie culture. The character of Ruth is problematic, but the film as a whole is funny enough to warrant a recommendation.
An interesting satire on the topic of abortion. Payne does a great job portraying just how ridiculous democracy can get sometimes, and how it can make some people feel lost in the never ending moral battles. On the downside, certain parts of the script felt forced. A good satire knows just how far it actually needs to go in order to be satirical, but Citizen Ruth seemed to walk that thin line between good satire and cringe-worthy jokes much too frequently. Also the soundtrack was extremely out of place and distracting. But Laura Dern's unforgettable performance as an aging drug addict is likely one of her greatest performances, and is most definitely the best reason to see this film.