Posts tagged ‘Kurtwood Smith’

June 16, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Citizen Ruth

Laura Dern Citizen RuthTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #18: Citizen Ruth

Director: Alexander Payne

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Nebraska

“Controversial” movies are usually a tough sell. Controversial comedies are usually even tougher. When I learned that Citizen Ruth was an abortion comedy, I was equal parts horrified and amused. Can Alexander Payne actually pull this off?

He did! When we meet Ruth (Laura Dern) she is one of the most desperate, strung-out, and pathetic junkies I’ve seen on screen in a while. Her drug of choice seems to be spray paint fumes, but will use cement sealant or good ol’ fashioned alcohol in a pinch. When she finds out that she is in fact pregnant (for the 5th time, no less) the judge suggests she gets an abortion. Then, as any good synopsis should say, Ruth finds herself in the middle of an all-out war about abortion.

What makes this movie work is the comedy rarely comes from abortion itself, but rather the weird people who support pro-life or pro-choice sides. While Payne probably shifts a little more towards pro-choice throughout the film, I want to delineate how well he balances the two sides out. Gail and Norm Stoney (Mary Kay Place and Kurtwood Smith) take Ruth in and are the local chapter leaders of their pro-life outfit. They have a whole series of songs and chants speaking out against abortion that are so absurd to be funny. When Ruth finally meets the pro-choice team, she thinks she has left the crazy behind. But a possibly lesbian couple drags her outside to sing a song in reverence to a moon goddess. So everyone is just a little bit nuts, and that makes everything way more fun.

The ensemble of this film is absolutely tremendous top to bottom. I understand that the Kurtz family needs to eat, but Swoosie Kurtz needs to find more audacious work like this. She is a true treasure. Tippi Hedren and Burt Reynolds are both given fantastic cameos, and the list of character actors involved includes M.C. Gainey, Kenneth Mars, Kathleen Noone, and even Kelly Preston! However, Laura Dern really steals the show as she always does. Her manic and selfish drive in life would probably get her places if she wasn’t always huffing glue.

I’m so glad to have caught up with this underseen gem, and maybe I’ll be able to forgive Alexander Payne for some of his other snoozefests. He’s not forgiven yet, though.