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HTF REVIEW: "Citizen Ruth" (with screenshots) (1 Viewer)

Ronald Epstein

Senior HTF Member
Jul 3, 1997
Real Name
Ronald Epstein

Citizen Ruth

Studio: Miramax
Year: 1996
Rated: R
Film Length: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.85:1)
Subtitles: English

A Pro-Laugh comedy

The one thing I love most about Miramax films is that
their film product is always unique -- with stories
and attitudes that are often way off of Hollywood's
mainstream beaten path. The studio isn't afraid to
offend anyone with their films, and often as a
result, produce movies that are brilliantly honest,
often wickedly funny, and most always appealing.

Unconventional and certainly controversial,
Citizen Ruth is a film that fits the Miramax
mold to a tee. It's an insane satire that reveals
the lowest common denominator of the extremist
behaviors on both sides of the most divisive issue
of our time -- abortion. A comedy about abortion
you say? Well, not quite.

Meet Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), a down-and-out
destitute "huffer" who'll easily lie and beg for
money in order to support her habit which consists
of stuffing her face into a paper bag, and getting
high from inhaling the hazardous vapor she puts
inside. When the police pick her up passed out
against a wall, she is taken to a local hospital
where a medical exam reveals she is pregnant. Days
later, a judge charges her with criminal endangerment
of her fetus.

Enter The Stoneys: Gail (Mary Kay Place) and Norm
(Kurtwood Smith), and their family of "Baby Saver"
Christian fundamentalists who offer to pay bail
and "rescue" Ruth from the clutches of the law.
What Ruth doesn't know is that she is about to
become an unsuspecting pawn in the battle between
the Baby Savers and a diverse band of Pro-choice

Things go from bad to insanely worse as Ruth is
rescued again, this time by lesbian pro-choice
activists Diane(Swoosie Kurtz) and Rachel (Kelly
Preston) who prepare Ruth for her abortion.

Soon both sides declare a "National Alert" which
calls for extreme measures from both sides. This
means bringing in Jessica Weiss (Tippi Hedren)
the symbolic leader of the pro-choice group who
arrives to do battle with Blaine Gibbons (Burt
Reynolds), who is the icon of the "babysavers."

I wouldn't say Citizen Ruth is a comedy
about abortion itself, as the film doesn't really
come down on either side of the abortion issue. It
spoofs just about everyone here -- even the
pro-Lifers themselves. Writer/director Alexander
Payne gives us a film full of smart satire and
characters that are incredibly stereotypical and
an electrifying Oscar caliber performance from its
star, Laura Dern.

How is the transfer?

Miramax has once again succeeded in putting
together a very pleasing transfer. Images are
clear and sharp with a substantial amount of
detail. Colors are clean and accurate, though
along with black levels, are not overly prominent
here. I did notice a small amount of background
grain, but nothing that is distracting.

The film's Dolby digital surround track is pretty
decent. The audio is well balanced with good
directionality and clear, centered dialog. The
rears do a pretty darn good job of supplying ambient
sounds of the town, it's traffic and rowdy crowd
masses. Even Rolf Kent's off-kilter musical score
manages to wrap itself nicely into the rear channels.

Special Features

It's nice to see that Miramax has included a
full-length commentary that features
director and screenwriter Alexander Payne,
screenwriter Jim Taylor, production designer
Jane Ann Stewart and actress Laura Dern.
Recorded last October, it begins with Jane
Ann Stewart talking about how they took a
little old lady's apartment that was neat and
tidy and turned it into a paint-smeared untidy
nightmare -- one that would belong to a drug
dealer. Most of the film was shot in Omaha,
a town Payne eventually moved back to for the
filming of About Schmidt. Everyone is
extremely proud of this project -- citing it as
the best they have ever worked on -- and this
commentary mostly becomes a reminiscent experience
for everyone involved.

Other than that, all that is left here is the
inclusion of the film's original theatrical
, which is always a welcomed feature.

Final Thoughts

I stopped short of putting Citizen Ruth in
my list of HIGHLY RECOMMENDED DVD titles. It's a
decision I may regret, because I feel this is such a
brave, provocative, amusing, and thoughtful satire.
How many other films can you name that can be all
that in under 2 hours?

Release Date: NOW

All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Doug D

Stunt Coordinator
May 14, 1999
Excellent news - I saw this in the theater way back when and loved it. Good to know there's a commentary, and it's time to place my order.


Second Unit
Aug 14, 2001
Thanks for the review, Ron. I will definately rent this at least. Curious to see what Payne / Tayler's debut is like.


Senior HTF Member
Dec 31, 2001
I was doing cartwheels when I found out this was on DVD, finally! It's a dead-on funny movie, and Laura Dern's best performance EVER. She was very brave to take the role, not because of the subject matter, but because her character is an irritating, nasty, devious, dimwit of a dimbulb, and Dern takes it and runs with it. She's brilliant!

I'll be buying this, immediately.

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