Citizen Ruth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Citizen Ruth Reviews

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½ November 18, 2010
Plot: An irresponsible druggy who is an unfit mother of four learns that she is pregnant while in jail. The judge charges her with felony criminal endangerment of the fetus, but will reduce the charges if she has an abortion. Shen then becomes caught in the middle of the issue of abortion, with people from both sides wanting to use her to get their point across. Directed by Alexander Payne(Election, Sideways, About Schmidt), Citizen Ruth is a Comedy/Drama that may be offensive to some, but I thought it was balanced. What I mean is, the movie biased to one side of the argument. It pretty much makes it clear that both sides are crazy in their own way. I didn't really find the main character, Ruth to be likeable. She seemed to self absorbed and only cared about herself but I guess that does make it funny. Ruth is fantasticly played by Laura Dern(Jurrassic Park). I found Kurtwood Smith and M.C. Gainey's characters hilarious. Kelly Preston also does a good job even though her role isnt that big.
½ November 2, 2010
Pitiful, bedraggled Ruth is a forlorn specimen of hopelessness with more than a dozen arrests for illegal inhalation. She has just been kicked out by her one-night boyfriend and turned away by her fed-up brother-in-law. The arresting cops already know her name. Now she's told she is pregnant. "You've been found to be an unfit mother four times!" a flabbergasted judge tells her. "Uh-uh," Ruth says. "Two times." The judge charges her with "felony criminal endangerment of a fetus," though submits in candor to drop the charges if she'll have an abortion. The displaced good intentions there are nothing compared to the ideological thicket that Ruth wanders into after her case becomes a national battleground for pro- and anti-abortion groups.

Citizen Ruth, the feature debut of definitive contemporary film wit Alexander Payne, a filmmaker of rare intelligence who's on the short list of American directors with final cut rights for their films, is a satire with the reckless courage to take on both sides in the abortion debate. There are no positive characters in the film, certainly not Ruth, whose preferred state is oblivion, and who perks up only when both sides start making cash offers. Whereas almost every film has a market in mind, here is a movie with a little something to offend anyone who has a strong opinion on abortion.

Who's left to market this movie to? Perhaps those diminishing figures who have a high regard for movies with audacity and sharpness, and do not demand to be gratified and bolstered by the characters on the screen. Some may find it too delineative to compensate more than a single viewing, but nevertheless a stimulating one-time wonder. Others see more ironic fine points upon multiple viewings. This makes it all the more valuable because what satire must do in order to work is take effective shots at both sides of whatever issue it holds to censure.

The movie is an arcade of finely honed satiric sketches. Thrown into jail, Ruth finds herself sharing the same cell with hymn-singing "Baby Savers" who have been jailed after a protest at an abortion clinic. She is promptly taken under the wings of Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place, who bring her home to an innocent milieu, innocent, i.e., until she finds their son's airplane glue. Gail oscillates between worship of life and acid disputes with her teenage daughter, who sooner or later helps Ruth slip away to a party.

One of the Baby Savers is Swoozie Kurtz, who uncovers herself as a mole for the pro-choice side, and whisks Ruth off to the wilderness retreat she shares with her lesbian lover, Rachel, who sings to the moon. They organize for Ruth to have an abortion, however already the Baby Savers have issued a national alert, the network crews are camped out in the parking lot, and the national leaders for both sides have flown into Tulsa to make their stands.

Shot in Nebraska just like Payne's exceedingly brilliant subsequent films Election and About Schmidt, Payne has a good eye for the character qualities of fanatics with the compulsion to control other people's lives. The leader of the pro-choice side, played by Tippi Hedren, is rendered as so hip and shrewd that you know it's a disguise for indescribable skeletons in the closet. And the leader of the pro-lifers is played by Burt Reynolds as a sloganeering fraud who glorifies the "American family values" crap while retaining a boy toy on his payroll.

There is nerve in the determination to make Ruth an unredeemed dope-head whose sole impulse is to go for the cash. Though unjustifiably careless and ignorant as Ruth is, she becomes extremely funny via Payne's fitting of her into such incongruous surroundings as much as Laura Dern's hysterical performance. Attesting herself as a superb physical comedian, the in-shape and gangly Dern lashes and yells her way through the catastrophe that explodes over her quandary. And yet with momentous satirical elegance, this definitive sleeper watches how both sides exploit this oblivious nonentity's soul, or lack thereof, in a variety of endeavors to forcibly convey their stance to the American public. I have misgivings that the two sides in the debate would in reality undertake a bidding war, but that's what satire is for: To take reality and broaden it into farce.

The movie sheds light on the ways in which mainstream films condition us to count on formula endings. Most movies are made with the credence that no one in the audience can be counted on to think about more than one concept at a time, at the very most. I'm happily bowled over when it arises that there will be no "good side" and "bad side" in the mĂȘlĂ (C)e over Ruth, and astonished when it seems that the movie will not turn up securely with a resolution to satisfy everyone. Some states of affairs, Payne appear to be contending, just cannot be reconciled to everyone's liking. Perhaps, for some viewers, that will make this not a comedy at all.
½ October 12, 2010
really enjoyed it...
½ September 24, 2010
A satire on the abortion debate in America. Director and writer Alexander Payne highlights the extremes of both sides and how they use ordinary girls facing an unwanted pregnancy as pawns in their ideological conflict. There are some really funny moments in this film and it is surprisingly unbiased. In this film, everyone is creepy and everyone has an agenda that is beyond caring for the woman in distress.
½ August 5, 2010
Well crafted dark comedy from Alexander Payne. Shows the idiocy of both sides of abortion rights fanatics.
½ June 8, 2010
Probably Laura Dern's finest performance. A simple lampooning of a controversial issue that brings the laughs. The best part is when one of the pro-choice activists chases after Dern with coffee cup planted firmly in hand.
½ May 28, 2010
No one has heard of this film but they should of .
May 11, 2010
Just criminally under-seen.
½ May 10, 2010
Brutally funny, irreverent satire on the politics of abortion that portrays activists on both sides as ludicrous extremists. Laura Dern is Ruth Stoops; a pregnant, glue-sniffing indigent who is ordered by a judge after an arrest to have an abortion to reduce her criminal charges. Ruth's conundrum becomes a battle between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements as each side claims Ruth as a symbol for the issue. This is one of the rare sophisticated social satires on one of the most controversial issues of our times yet it is vastly underrated. The filmmakers refuse to take sides, which may be upsetting to some, right until the perfect ending; a summation of how individuals become pawns for the movement itself. Alexander Payne made his directorial debut with this film and it remains his most daring effort and, I think, his best movie. Tall, skinny Laura Dern is convincingly haggard and ambivalent. Co-written by Payne and Jim Taylor. The rest of the cast includes terrific performances by Burt Reynolds, Kurtwood Smith, Swoozie Kurtz, Kelly Preston, David Graf, Kenneth Mars, Tippi Hedren, and an unbilled Diane Ladd.
½ March 25, 2010
"I think about my dead baby all the time!" Ahhhh an indictment of extremism, a little too relevant...
½ March 22, 2010
Ruth (Laura Dern), an addict and alcoholic spawning kids left and right without caring, gets pregnant again and is caught up in a battle between the pro-lifers (steretypical religious "baby savers") and pro-choicers (stereotypical left-wingers) -- both camps are parodied. Hilarity ensues.
½ March 15, 2010
I was really glad to see a movie dealing with the abortion issue. However, Lauren Dern's stupid character was so irritating to watch. What a dipshit. Already had 4 kids she didn't care about and huffed fumes. Jesus christ, makes me support sterilization even more. Intersting, but just too damn annoying.
January 23, 2010
It's tough to make a film work when the media is the enemy - the conflict becomes inherently intangible and the protagonist passive. Still, being that this is an issue movie before it is a character movie, it soars more than it falters thanks to clever visual metaphors and Payne & Taylor's always spot-on portrayal of Midwestern culture.
½ January 11, 2010
All Payne has done in his first film is make a comedy dealing with the abortion issue, that manages to remain even handed. Amazing!
½ December 21, 2009
It's like Pretty Woman, only better, and with something to say.
December 17, 2009
'Citizen Ruth' is a satire on abortion that's laugh-out-loud funny, surprising, and plays fair (both sides look like idiots). The cast is amazing, and Laura Dern should have got an Oscar for her performance as Ruth, a drug-addicted woman with child caught in the abortion war with both sides using her for their own gain.
½ November 26, 2009
Satire - and it's good.
November 10, 2009
fantastic cast! the actors were so believeable, and its crazy that there is soo much comedy in trajedy! burt reynolds is a riot!!
November 2, 2009
I think this was meant to have been a dark comedy with a pro-abortion theme. The comedy and the message never get their comeuppance. Perhaps Phyllis Schlafly got involved because it all works out too nicely in the end.
Super Reviewer
½ September 11, 2009
Number one its ballsy, I mean really a comedy about abortion is just not the type of film that is made too often. Number two, Laura Dern is one of the bet actors alive and here she is given a really great character. Ruth is a woman who really only cares about herself and she becomes the unwilling pawn in the ideological tug of war that ensues. As unlikeable as Ruth is at times, we really do feel for her and Laura Dern makes that happen. Alexander Payne ingeniously parodies both sides of the issue but it never leaves the realm of believability.
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