Pro-choice and pro-life extremists take a pounding in this good movie about a grizzly subject.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

At first glance, "Citizen Ruth" is yet another tale of the unrelieved misery of a young woman who has stepped off the edge of the world into a drugged abyss. But this time, thank heaven, the subject becomes a satire on the groups that have organized to save the afflicted. Pro-choice and pro-life extremists take a pounding in this good movie about a grizzly subject.

Laura Dern's Ruth is a loser who doesn't have the faintest desire to change her ways. Thrown out by a man from the squalid room they have shared for his sexual pleasure, Ruth has no place to go, nothing to eat. After spending her last change on a can of patio sealant, she breathes in its vaporized reprieve from a paper bag. She is slumped against a building, pale white with the ugly gray of the sealant encircling her mouth, and she is pregnant.

With a record of arrests for vapor inhalations, failed treatments, and six children taken from her by the state, Ruth has exhausted the system. And she has almost exhausted us. But the spoof takes off when the judge recommends an abortion and the fundamentalists swoop into the jail to sweep her into their protective custody.

The pro-lifers and the pro-choicers form a metaphorical, nearly actual, gauntlet with the verbal violence they spew over the head of the lost soul they have claimed for their causes. And while they scream their self-absorbed zealotry, Ruth strolls away to nowhere, unnoticed under the umbrella of their invective.

The movie spits acid evenhandedly at both sides. The pro-life family that takes Ruth in is suffocating itself in its hypocrisy and denial. To seal her conversion, they bring in a shrink and a doctor who blabber in fundamentalist platitudes while Ruth plots her escape.

Escape she does, right into the hands of the equally fanatical pro-choicers, foul-mouthed zealots who are as adept as their enemies at turning monstrous in a second. The voices that penetrate the remains of Ruth's awareness are rip-off artists who talk to young people as if they were puppies.

The liberals watch porn movies, the conservatives carry guns, and the essence of them all them is Diane (Swoozie Kurtz), a militant double agent who manages to embody the worst of both extremes. Ruth, a trophy case for everybody, drinks her way through both camps while they argue about her unborn child.

To bless the whole astonishing mess with his presence, Christian guru Blaine Givens (Burt Reynolds), steps out of his private plane in bushy-wigged evangelical dignity, propelled by his own outrage at life and sustained by the girl servant at his side.

The movie is Laura Dern all the way in an over-the-top whack at both extremes of the abortion movement, a wicked send-up of adults drowning in their own self-righteousness. But there is a leaden edge to all this hilarity because of its underlying truth.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 494
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h44m

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