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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:

Life, liberty, money and the pursuit of happiness. She's gotta have it. 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

Diane Ladd, Laura Dern's real life mother plays her mother in the film. 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

Woman: We took the kids to Florida and stopped in Virginia to see the "Tomb of the Unborn Baby".
See more »

Crazy Credits

About halfway through the credits, we hear the beginning of Tape 2, Side 1. See more »

Connections

Referenced in TruInside: Election (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Uncommonly mature with its centrist ideology
11 September 2012 | by StevePulaskiSee all my reviews

Before writer/director Alexander Payne was making deep, intimate pictures centered around eccentric humans playing a little game called "Life," he was concocting explosive satires, bursting at the seams with originality and charm. His directorial debut, Citizen Ruth, is a little stroll through the eclectic-side of his days.

Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern) is a rather despicable woman. She has had multiple kids and has been addicted to inhaling substances from glue to patio sealant for years now. When she discovers she is pregnant again, she tosses around the idea of having an abortion, so as not to give birth to another unfortunate, helpless soul. Having no family and no one to turn to for advice, she finds herself intrusively manipulated by pro-life and pro-choice groups from all walks of life, and his taken in by a well-meaning couple, played by Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place. They will provide her with everything she could need, including protection from the media, so long as she doesn't give into the abortion.

The remainder of the film centers around the asinine attention the media pays to Ruth and her "family," and how she may be forcefully committed to one side because of their obnoxious manipulation.

What is truly amazing, however, is how Citizen Ruth manages to perfectly keep a centrist viewpoint, showing both sides at their utmost ridiculous. Never does the film show a direct bias. From watching this, we can sort of believe that Payne's view on the entire abortion issue is simplified to something along the lines of, "both sides are equally right and equally bizarre."

Dern here is spectacularly, embodying a character void of any likability traits and sophistication as a whole. She is an unkempt, sorry mess of a woman and Payne portrays her exactly as that. While it may not be the most complete film out there, or even one of the funniest satires (especially when you put to along side Election, Payne's sophomore effort), it still is a reasonable compliment to say that Citizen Ruth does a splendid job of keeping a film about a controversial issue neutral and viable throughout its runtime.

Starring: Laura Dern, Kurtwood Smith, and Mary Kay Place. Directed by: Alexander Payne.


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