No one is free from ridicule in this satirical—and cynical—film
about the controversial pro-life/pro-choice debate…
Laura Dern plays Ruth
Stoops, a pathetic user who lives on the street and takes advantage of every opportunity
to buy cheap alcohol or get high off spray paint fumes (or brake fluid…or modeling
glue…). When the cops pick her up yet again, she’s examined and found to be pregnant.
Pregnancy’s nothing new for Ruth, who already has four children—none of whom she’s
allowed to see. But this time, the judge has had enough, and he decides to try her for
felony criminal endangerment of her unborn child—and he secretly tells her that the best
thing to do is to “get it taken care of.” While she’s being held, she meets a band of
overzealous pro-lifers (a group called the Baby Savers) who decide to take Ruth under
their wing. They bail her out and take her home.
Instantly, Ruth finds
herself in the middle of a media frenzy. Everyone wants to know what Ruth’s going to do.
Will she have the baby or have an abortion? And when Ruth is kidnapped by a pro-choice
spy (Swoosie Kurtz), the battle for Ruth’s unborn child heightens into war. Meanwhile,
as both sides are fighting over Ruth—and extremists from all sides are showing of from
around the country—Ruth is sneaking off to find any intoxicants she can get her hands on,
and it becomes pretty clear that no one really cares about Ruth. All they care about is
her decision—and the statement it will make. And if they have to buy her decision, so be
If you’re easily offended, steer clear of Citizen Ruth—because
the bullets fly in all directions, and everyone gets hit. In this movie, no one is
rational or intelligent or unselfish. Pro-lifers are seen as naïve Christian
fundamentalists with big hair and out-of-date wardrobes, who do very little but sing
hymns and pray and hold candlelight vigils. Pro-choicers are seen as either spaced-out
lesbians who sing to the moon or crazed biker gang vigilantes who just seem to enjoy
being violent and obnoxious. And single mothers are just stupid, penniless users who
care about nothing but where their next high is coming from.
single character in this film cares about anything but him/herself—and nowhere will you
find a character with whom you could (or would even want to) relate. And if you don’t
really care what happens to anyone in the end, why waste your time watching the whole
thing? Because while the movie provides the occasional chuckle and a few interesting
plot twists (especially the rather unexpected ending), you’ll come away from watching it
with nothing. It makes no real statement (then again, I guess “Everybody’s stupid and
selfish” is technically a statement), and it’s not even all that entertaining.
Citizen Ruth is controversial for the fun of it. And I sure hope
the filmmakers had fun making it—because it wasn’t all that fun to watch.