Citizen Ruth

Alexander Payne’s (Election, Sideways, Nebraska) debut feature tackles the circa-1996 reproductive rights debate but plays it as a new kind of slapstick comedy, following Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), a glue-sniffing teenage miscreant who ends up both pregnant and subsequently at the center of a mainstream-media firestorm as the poster child of teen pregnancy. Payne’s biting satire skewers both sides of the debate in equal measure but stays unpredictable throughout, while Dern displays her physical comedy chops as she callously seeks to profit from her newfound yet fleeting fame. Featuring a heavy-hitting cast of supporting players—including Tippi Hedren and Swoosie Kurtz on the pro-choice side, and Kurtwood Smith and Burt Reynolds on the pro-life side—Citizen Ruth is one of the finest American comedies of the ’90s, but unfortunately remains relevant during our current election cycle.

Appears in: Print the Legend

Genres: Dark Comedy