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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, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$153,155, 12 January 1997
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

This movie marks the reunion of Laura Dern and Burt Reynolds in a theatrical movie. The 1970s Reynolds movie White Lightning (1973) had been Dern's uncredited film debut. Dern was just six years old when she appeared in a brief non-speaking walk on bit part. In White Lightning (1973), Dern played the daughter of her real life mother Diane Ladd who played Maggie. This time around in Citizen Ruth (1996), it is Dern who has the main part with Reynolds playing a supporting role. 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

Ruth: [after seeing a movie about abortion] I slept in a few dumpsters. Maybe I slept on some babies.
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

Harlan, a great, underrated character
8 February 2001 | by visceralgirlSee all my reviews

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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