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Ruby, a young woman, arrives in a Florida resort town during the off season to make a fresh start. She gets work as a sales clerk in a souvineer shop run by Mildred Chambers. She dates, and sleeps with, Ricky Chambers, Mildred's conceited son, but breaks off with him when she finds she's just another conquest. She gets involved with Mike, a left-wing greenhouse worker. As the seasons change, Ruby's relationships with others and herself go through metamorphoses as she makes choices and discoveries establishing her own identity. A character study. Written by
James Meek <email@example.com>
Artful coming-of-age story starring Ashley Judd, by the director of "Ulee's Gold"
"Ruby in Paradise" is a beautiful, coming-of-age story about a young woman, Ruby Lee Gissing, escaping her stifling roots to become herself. Although the title character is played artfully by the gorgeous Ashley Judd -- in likely her first movie role, albeit one to be quite proud of -- the emphasis is not upon becoming "somebody," a la the next Madonna (whether Jesus' mother or the lurid, attention-hungry singer).
It instead emphasizes following ones' instincts and being somewhat introspective about them, to grow into one's ideal, adult self. NOTE: This isn't an action movie!!! It uses an occasional voice-over narration (by Ms. Judd) while writing in her journal -- and oh, I see I've just lost the male half of the readers out there. But be patient with this beautiful movie, where we learn that one's bliss can be discovered in -- oh, I dunno, carrying water and chopping wood.
Actor/director/writer Todd Field, who played Nick Nightingale in "Eyes Wide Shut," co-stars as Ruby Lee's noble love interest, one who helps her heal her idea of relationships implanted from youth.
But not even his character is the answer for Ruby Lee: There's no external hero imposed upon her. The ultimate message is that we are responsible for ourselves. Writer/director Victor Nunez, who also wrote/directed "Ulee's Gold," did an amazing job showing a young woman growing into herself -- confronting age-old challenges of good v. evil along the way.
The supporting cast is also stellar, and the music used, particularly the cuts by chanteuse Sam Phillips (whom I hear is the wife of T. Bone Burnett), is right on -- most especially "Trying to Hold on to the Earth." Now, when I hear the first few chords of that song, tears spring to my eyes, Pavlovian and unbidden -- not sure if it's the music, or the indelible connection to the movie's quiet, charming message of empowerment.
This movie is highly recommended for any young person trying to find his/her way. For any woman of any age, it is a must see! The downside: It is NOT on DVD, except in Spanish. (We learned, however, that it is legal to make one copy of a VHS version, which can be readily found online. My beloved husband found someone with a VHS copy and got a DVD copy made for me.) Although this treasure of a movie occasionally pops up on-air on an indie channel, usually you can't count on that when you might need it most as a tonic to soothe the pressures of the world. So buy a copy for yourself.
This movie should have a major re-release, and it would, if I were Queen of Hollywood.
-- Figgy Jones
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