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Citizen Ruth
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Reviews & Ratings for
Citizen Ruth More at IMDbPro »

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40 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

Payne's underappreciated gem

8/10
Author: Neil Amos (namos@hughes.net) from CA
3 October 2002

It's truly gratifying to see that Alexander Payne has really made a name for himself in the art of film direction, having made nothing less than two fantastic social satires. "Election" garnered him considerable praise as will "About Schmidt," but in my mind, "Citizen Ruth" is the best. It's not as funny as Election in the sense that there aren't the moments that make your jaw drop in terms of the delightfully vicious nature of the satire, but the script is just as thoughtful as it is funny, and Payne did a remarkable job satirizing what, by most accounts, is an "un-satirizable" subject. Laura Dern really deserved some kind of award (you know the academy would never have the stones to recognize a film such as this...) as her performance is both touching and hysterical. Some said the film started off great and then didn't really go anywhere, but I disagree. The final shot says it all with respect to the direction of the story, and it really amazes me that this film could be made without really taking a side on anything. Ultimately, I was blindsided by the film's astute message, which was not even about abortion itself, but the selfish nature of the two sides arguing it. Payne will undoubtably move on to make compelling films in the future that take advantage of higher budgets, etc., but "Citizen Ruth" deserves a place amongst the best first features in any genre.

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41 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

Bravo!

9/10
Author: prospectpt from Vancouver, Canada.
22 January 2006

An outstanding work – the consummate Indie.

A great, little satire that manages to make you identify with a homeless, hopeless druggie.

Laura Dern is perfect as the indigent & insatiable "Ruth". She brings an engaging hidden-beauty to the part, and with the help of Alexander Payne's brilliant direction, she nimbly walks the wire between comical hero and tragic pariah.

This gem clearly demonstrates that, even though the production budget may be lower than a republican's principles - when great talent and artistic enthusiasm couple, a work of genius is likely to be born.

Cheers, AB – a staff member of Prospect Point Productions, Inc.

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22 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Devastatingly, but hilarious view of Choice vs. Life

9/10
Author: frabjous from Reno, NV
6 October 2001

Laura Dern gives what should have been an oscar-winning performance in this satire of the abortion controversy. However this movie is not for the main stream. She plays a homeless drug user and a user period. Not a nice person. She has four kids in three different places. The first scene depicts her trying to hit up her ex for money displaying only a token concern for her kids. But by the end of the movie you kinda like her (well, almost... you still would never let her come to your house). Anyway when she is picked up for the 16th time that year by the cops for sniffing household stuff (anything she can find: glue, paint, brake fluid...), the authorities find out that she is pregnant. The DA charges her with criminal endangerment of the fetus, but hints that if she has an abortion the charge will go away. While in the city jail she meets up with the Baby Savers and a tug-of-war ensues between them and the Right-To-Choose people. The portrayal of both sides is so devastatingly accurate that I doubt either side would know they're being lampooned. This movie rates with Cold Turkey and Drop Dead Gorgeous for its cynical, but hilarious portrait of American Life.

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27 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Obscure object of hype

Author: matthew wilder (cosmovitelli@mediaone.net) from los angeles
7 September 1999

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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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

A Very Acid Social Criticism of the American Society Hypocrisy Regarding the Abortion Theme

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1 October 2004

Ruth (Laura Dern) is a young homeless glue-addicted street junkie, who is arrested again completely doped. The justice realizes that she is pregnant for the fifth time, and the judge offers her the option of an abortion. Ruth is released under the custody of a family and sooner she is involved in a pro-choice vs. pro-life (called 'The Babysavers') dispute. This is the first time I have seen this movie and it is a very acid social criticism of the American society hypocrisy regarding the abortion theme. The story does not spare any side, showing hypocrites persons on both sides. The pro-life are showed as religious fanatics and narrow-minded persons, the deranged family who lodges Ruth has a the father with sexual attraction in Laura and the mother a fanatic who does not see the behavior of her own daughter. The pro-choice group is showed as homosexual, but also faking a situation. In common, all of them are radicals hypocrites. And Ruth indeed is not caring whether she is going to have her fifth baby or not, abusing of drugs and alcohol and only interested in the money offered by both sides. And the rights of the citizen Ruth is the less important issue for both sides. Laura Dern has one of her best interpretations and in the very beginning of the movie, I did not recognize her. I believe she was not indicated for an Oscar due to the polemic theme of abortion. The performance of the cast and the direction are also excellent. My vote is seven, but maybe this movie deserves a better ranking after watching it for the second time.

Title (Brazil): 'Ruth em Questão' (Ruth in Question')

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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Watch this one more than once!

9/10
Author: erin_aaron from Spokane, WA
20 May 2004

Occasionally you will see a movie that may take you some time to decide whether you enjoyed it. By the second time you see it, you're better able to fully appreciate the movie without becoming wrapped up in confusing or disturbing plot elements. "Citizen Ruth" is one of the best examples of this phenomenon I have ever seen. If you've seen it before, give it another chance. If you have not, give yourself some time to reflect after watching it. You will not be disappointed.

"Citizen Ruth" is the story of a woman, Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern could not have been a better choice for this role), who has spent her difficult life making a lot of bad choices. She is a quick-tempered, irresponsible but naive junkie, who you can't help but root for. When she finds herself pregnant yet again, with no intention of giving up the model airplane glue and spray paint she regularly huffs, the judge makes it clear that with all of her previous run-ins with the legal system, Ruth had better "take care of the problem" or face serious charges.

When the local pro-life group, the Babysavers (Kurtwood Smith was another excellent choice to play the leader of this group) catches wind of the judge's comments, they set out to save Ruth and her unborn child. This, of course, turns out in a hilariously disastrous way, when pro-choice gets involved to even up the playing field. Ruth's naivete makes her easy for both sides to manipulate, and neither pro-life nor pro-choice winds up looking very good.

The ending to this movie is not, in my opinion, as predictable as it seems, and it really gives you something to think about - what is "life" and how much (both in material and ethereal terms) is it worth, particularly when it's placed in the hands of somebody who is in such poor control of her or his own? Is it ethical to take advantage of somebody's lack of knowledge for your own gain, or is it even okay to try to change somebody's mind? Is Ruth Stoops a bad person, or just a misunderstood and desperate woman? And what about her final choice?

This movie is worth a second look, and at a $3 rental fee, what do you have to lose?

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16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Underrated Gem

10/10
Author: TheKingofHarts84 from Michigan, USA
16 January 2005

In the wake of the huge success "Sideways" is garnering lately, everyone should look back at this incredible film from Alexander Payne, which shows off everything he and writing partner Jim Taylor are best at- the dark skewering of small-town America, rich with satire and heart. I had seen all of Payne's films except this one, and although I really loved all of them, this may be his most fully realized. This is probably because his targets are hit exactly dead-on, and the absurdity of the situations are in fact, achingly real. Laura Dern gives a wonderful and unflinching portrayal of Ruth, and the rest of the cast, especially Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place, and in a small role, Burt Reynolds, are exceptional as the targets of Payne's satire. Payne fills his films with little details of small-town life, and here they add so much to the point of the story. Take for example the grace that Kurtwood Smith's character gives, which is barely heard because of the roaring plane overhead. It is these details that are the crux of a story like this. So as "Sideways" continues to claim many awards (and rightfully so), I urge you to check out this earlier film from Payne, and experience a brilliant little film, and one of the gutsiest movies you may ever see.

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A fun satirization of the life-choice controversy

7/10
Author: George Parker from Orange County, CA USA
21 February 2001

The title character of "Citizen Ruth" (Dern), an indigent and pregnant fume-head with a potty mouth and bad attitude, finds herself the unwitting cause of a clash of pro-choice and pro-abortion activists in this bitingly satirical look at the abortion issue in America. Dern makes an excellent centerpiece for this award winning comedy which mocks both sides of the life/choice controversy with a vanguard of comic stereotypes. "CR" should be an enjoyable and fun watch for those mature enough for strong language and not so brittle as to personalize the issues involved.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic

10/10
Author: Wichita_Film_Fan from Kansas
6 July 2006

There is something about Citizen Ruth that keeps me coming back to it. I must have seen it 30 times and haven't tired of it yet. It is genuine and the people are so amazingly real. It's almost as if some of my neighbours seem just like the characters in the film. That says a lot in my opinion. The Mid-west is a land that holds a special place in the American psyche. I can literally count on my hands the number of films that truly capture its spirit. Citizen Ruth is one of those films. From scenes in the hardware store to large rear wheel drive Fords, everything fits perfectly. This film captures a place called Omaha which for better or worse Hollywood largely ignores. It also treats a controversial topic like abortion in a thoughtful manner. Excellent film. Highly recommended.

10 out of 10 stars.

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Harlan, a great, underrated character

Author: visceralgirl from Alexandria, VA
8 February 2001

I thought "Citizen Ruth" was fine, biting satire and a movie that had to be made at some point in America's history. Like all good movies, it is not really about the subject at hand - in this case, the abortion issue - but about something deeper and more far reaching. "Citizen Ruth" is about people who get so devoted to a cause they think important to humanity that they forget to consider actual human beings.

Of course, the unavoidable problem with a movie such as this is that almost all of the characters are unsympathetic. Regardless of what opinion one has on the abortion issue, both factions behave badly and they do it supposedly on behalf of the most irresponsible, irredeemable, unlikable (but still watchable) glue sniffer around, Ruth. The effect can be a little wearing, especially at the end.

The movie alleviates this problem by including one wonderful character, Harlan, the cynical Gulf War vet. He unceremoniously plunks his prosthetic leg on the kitchen table. He eats shirtless standing over a sink. He sees Ruth as a person, albeit a diminished one, and is willing to give her what she really wants (money) in order to, as he says, level the playing field, even though he knows she will squander it in a matter of days and tells her so. While he is on the prochoice side, he sees the humor in the situation, as evidenced by his wonderful grin and does not seem to lose track of his own humanity. His dialogue is priceless. Where everybody else speaks in rhetoric he cuts to the chase. My favorite retort of his occurs when the sanctimonious Dale, a pro-lifer, spouts out some Biblical condemnation at him and he responds by giving the exact location in the Bible of the quote. Naturally the actor playing the part, M. C. Gainey, deserves much of the credit for creating this appealing character.

The movie has many other merits but Harlan is my own personal favorite

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