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Citizen Ruth (1996)

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An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.

Director:

Alexander Payne
3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Laura Dern ... Ruth Stoops
Swoosie Kurtz ... Diane Siegler
Kurtwood Smith ... Norm Stoney
Mary Kay Place ... Gail Stoney
Kelly Preston ... Rachel
M.C. Gainey ... Harlan
Kenneth Mars ... Dr. Charlie Rollins
David Graf ... Judge Richter
Kathleen Noone ... Nurse Pat
Tippi Hedren ... Jessica Weiss
Burt Reynolds ... Blaine Gibbons
Lance Rome Lance Rome ... Ricky, Ruth's Lover
Jim Kalal Jim Kalal ... Tony Stoops
Shea Degan Shea Degan ... Arresting Officer
Vince Morelli Vince Morelli ... Dr. George
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Storyline

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 <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Meet Ruth Stoops...One Bad Mother. See more »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for substance abuse, strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Miramax | Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 December 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Meet Ruth Stoops See more »

Filming Locations:

Nebraska, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$26,709, 15 December 1996

Gross USA:

$285,112

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$285,112
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color (FotoKem)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Diane Ladd, Laura Dern's real life mother plays her mother in the film. See more »

Goofs

When Ruth is going out to party with her host family's daughter, she takes a hit from a bong, but does so incorrectly, not clearing the smoke from the chamber. See more »

Quotes

Rachel: It is always women like you who are most victimized by anti-choice: indigent women, third-world women, women of color.
Ruth: I'm not a colored woman!
See more »

Crazy Credits

About halfway through the credits, we hear the beginning of Tape 2, Side 1. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Election (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Obscure object of hype
7 September 1999 | by nunculusSee all my reviews

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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