A high school teacher's personal life becomes complicated as he works with students during the school elections, particularly with an obsessive overachiever determined to become student body president.
Playboy does to softcore sex films what HBO's Tales from the Crypt did for horror. Contains the stories: "Dogs Playing Poker"; "The Branding"; "The Portal"; "The Perfect Woman"; "Within Ten... See full summary »
Playboy does to softcore sex films what HBO's Tales from the Crypt did for horror. Contains the stories: "Brush Strokes"; "Shrink Rap"; "Doubletalk"; "The Leda"; "My Secret Moments"; "Life ... See full summary »
Ruth Stoops is a poor indigent drug-user (a huffer - inhaling glue and paint for a high) whose down and out existence is complicated once more by becoming pregnant (she has had and lost four children already). When a judge orders that she gets an abortion or face a felony charge, she is befriended by Gail Stoney, a pro-lifer whose husband is president of the local "Babysavers" group. Suddenly Ruth is thrust into the middle of the pro-choice/pro-life struggle, with each side wanting her to take their side as a "message" to others - and the situation escalates... Written by
Gary Dickerson <email@example.com>
Unlike every other young American filmmaker, buzzing like moths around the asthmatic short guy from Little Italy, Alexander Payne has a pleasingly atypical role model: Luis Bunuel. His brilliant ELECTION sets down a number of Bunuel tropes in the chain restaurants and badly lit high schools of Omaha, Nebraska, and his first feature, CITIZEN RUTH, is even closer to the wall-eyed master's bone.
The heroine, played by Laura Dern, is named Ruth Stoops, and that's an understatement. Ruth begins the picture as a dumpster-diving skank whose preoccupations are birthing bastards and huffing glue. Through a BEING THERE-ish chain of circumstances, Ruth finds herself in the hands of a family of Baby Savers (Payne's version of Operation Rescue), and then a squadron of mostly lesbian, bourgeois, goddess-worshiping, Frida-Kahlo-T-shirt-wearing pro-choice activists. Though the movie cannily found a home with the Sundance crowd as a "satire" of both sides of the "abortion debate," the topicality is strictly surface. CITIZEN RUTH is a straight-up-Bunuelian demonstration of the hundred facets of human mendacity and venality, cloaking their shivering skins in the warm fabric of Morals. It's a cheerfully made thesis movie about the universality of hypocrisy.
Payne has a curious, sure, light, on-the-money touch. Every detail you notice--from a Baby Saver mom's Tupperware samovar of cherry Kool-Ade, to Kurtwood Smith's Sav-On uniform (with a button that sadly screams "Ask Me!")--is ever so slightly exaggerated and perfectly true. Payne's rendering of his home town Omaha, its wan, angry Christians, and the kinda-gay, kinda-liberal-artsy interlopers, makes the Coen Brothers look both pizzazzier and much nastier. The single-mindedness of the movie is oddly pleasing when it's mated with such a certain, gingerly approach. (Payne's tastes run gratifyingly wide: his jokes, and his music, seem derived from the works of James L. Brooks.) There's a two-dimensionality about CITIZEN RUTH that makes it less deeply satisfying than ELECTION, but this is one smart filmmaker. As the millennium rolls in, the likes of Wes Anderson and Kevin Smith will be gagging on his dust.
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