Citizen Ruth
Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kelly Preston, Burt Reynolds
Directed by Alexander Payne
Alliance Films 1996
105 minutes

Citizen Ruth hangs on Laura Dern’s performance as Ruth. This movie is decent enough; it is Laura Dern who makes this comedy DVD worth watching. If you think Citizen Ruth is over the top plot-wise just think of what happened with Terry Schiavo; now that was over the top.

Dern plays Ruth Stoops, a woman who loves to huff paint and glue fumes. She gets arrested for the umpteenth time and when the judge discovers she is pregnant for the fifth time he sends her to jail and privately suggest getting rid of the problem would make him reconsider the jail sentence. A well-meaning “pro life” Christian family, the Stoneys, pays Ruth’s bail and takes her in. They have no idea what they are getting into.

A few surprising twists and turns later, including her moving in with the pro choice folks, Ruth becomes a pawn between the “pro life” and Pro Choice clans and both try to manipulate her, or is it the other way around?

Citizen Ruth lacks focus and does not have the bite that would have made it a great comedy. It does hint at possibilities with the Burt Reynolds and his son or Harlan the pro-choice home’s bodyguard, but these possibilities vanish. Even the gag involving the get rich quick tape Ruth stole from the Stoneys does not deliver the punch it could have had.

Not to play spoiler but the ending to this movie is unsatisfying.

Look for Kelly Preston as Rachel, the woman who lives with Swoosie Kurtz (Pushing Daisies), and Alicia Witt as the Stoney’s daughter.

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