Starring: Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place
Director: Alexander Payne
Running Time: 106 mins
Citizen Ruth is an American film about an irresponsible, drug-addicted woman who, after finding herself unexpectedly pregnant, becomes the centre of the fierce abortion debate between fanatical pro-life and pro-choice campaigners.
This is a fascinating and powerfully politically charged black comedy that deals with the abortion issue with brilliant neutrality, and also goes beyond to look at such issues as fanaticism and greed, all in a really entertaining and interesting way.
The film centres around a woman whose life is in complete ruin, who is thrust into the middle of this hot debate as reluctantly as possible. On the one hand, this main character is the worst thing about the entire film, because she is so loathsome and consistently self-centred that it’s impossible to really support her and make this a pleasant watch.
On the other hand, that’s the genius of this film. She is the centrepiece of the detailing of personal greed, and it’s fascinating to follow the way that she responds to all of the attention, whilst she’s also brilliant because, despite being painfully irritating, Laura Dern puts in a great performance to make her just that.
The sense of humour in this film is also fantastic. The writing is consistently entertaining, and whilst it’s not as much of a laugh-out-loud black comedy as Alexander Payne’s 1999 Election, it’s light-hearted and comical enough to be an entertaining watch.
The other way in which this film uses its humour so well is in order to keep itself as neutral as possible. In a seriously controversial issue, the comedy makes fun of stereotypes on both sides of the debate, exaggerating them to hilarious extents, which not only makes for more entertainment, but also makes sure that you can watch this film and be interested by it no matter what side of the argument you are on.
However, the most fascinating part of this film is the way that it deals with the whole abortion debate. Apart from showing the campaigning behind the actual cause on both sides, Alexander Payne’s excellent script goes beyond talking about abortion, and instead portraying the campaigners as nothing but fanatics who in truth don’t care about the well-being of our main character, but only publicity for their side of the cause, which was a really original and intelligent twist on this very political story.
Overall, this gets a 7.4, because it’s not only an entertaining black comedy, but an intriguing and intelligent political drama with such well-written neutrality that it’s a great watch for all.