Original film poster
|Directed by||Alexander Payne|
|Produced by||Cary Woods
|Written by||Alexander Payne
Mary Kay Place
|Music by||Rolfe Kent|
|Editing by||Kevin Tent|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Release date(s)|| January 1996 (Sundance Film Festival)
December 13, 1996
|Running time||102 minutes|
Citizen Ruth is a 1996 comedy film that tells a story of a poor, irresponsible and pregnant woman who unexpectedly attracts attention from those involved in the debate about the morality and legality of abortion. The film is the directorial debut of Alexander Payne.
The movie opens with Ruth Stoops and a man (apparently an ex-boyfriend) having intercourse on a bed in a flophouse, after which he disrespectfully throws her out of the apartment. She later goes to a hardware store to buy patio sealant and huffs it in a paper bag in an alley to get high. Ruth is portrayed as a dumb, inebriated addict, capable of doing nearly anything to get money or drugs.
Ruth has 4 kids, all of whom have been taken from her custody by the state because of her inability to care for them (or even for herself). Her kids are scattered among three different homes. Ruth goes to the home of her brother and sister-in-law to sneak a look at two of her kids and to beg her brother for money.
After Ruth is arrested for her continuing drug use, she learns that she is pregnant again. At her arraignment, she learns to her horror that she is facing felony charges; her many earlier arrests had all been on misdemeanor charges. The judge, who knows of the situation with Ruth's other offspring, suggests to her after the hearing that he will deal with her less harshly if she has an abortion. Through a chance encounter with a group of jailed abortion protesters, Ruth soon finds herself at the center of an escalating battle between people on both sides of the abortion issue. Both sides engage in deceitful tactics to influence Ruth's decision. The pro-life people run a fake abortion clinic, where they actually seek to dissuade patients from receiving the proffered service. The pro-choice people have "spies" in the pro-life group who spirit Ruth away.
Both sides offer incentives into the thousands of dollars to the hapless and exhilarated woman to secure her promise that she keep or abort the child. Wise for the dollar, Ruth rampantly encourages the bidding. She becomes the object of a local news and political obsession; a figure of the media whom all want to know: Will she or won't she have an abortion?
On the day Ruth is to receive her abortion, she suffers a miscarriage. Going along with the pretense of having the abortion, she proceeds to the clinic to collect $15,000 that has been left there for her by one of the security guards of the clinic who believes in personal freedom. He has personally given her the money, free of organizational sponsorship, to match the bid given by the Pro-Life group, so that she can make her decision without the influence of money. She then breaks out of the clinic by dropping a toilet tank cover on a guard's head and walks by oblivious protesters on both sides. Even though she'd been on the TV news for weeks, none of the picketers on either side pay any attention to her actual presence. Finally standing up, she runs away down the street.
A running joke in the movie is a "Success in Finance"-type tape produced by an Amway-type company. Ruth takes the tape and studies it to determine what to do with her newfound money.
|Laura Dern||Ruth Stoops|
|Swoosie Kurtz||Diane Siegler|
|Kurtwood Smith||Norm Stoney|
|Mary Kay Place||Gail Stoney|
|M. C. Gainey||Harlan|
|Kenneth Mars||Dr. Charles Rollins|
|David Graf||Judge Richter|
|Kathleen Noone||Nurse Pat|
|Tippi Hedren||Jessica Weiss|
|Burt Reynolds||Blaine Gibbons|
|Alicia Witt||Cheryl Stoney|
|Diane Ladd||Ruth's mother|
- Official website
- Citizen Ruth at the Internet Movie Database
- Citizen Ruth at AllRovi
- Citizen Ruth at Rotten Tomatoes
- Citizen Ruth at Metacritic
- Citizen Ruth at Box Office Mojo