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Citizen Ruth

Rated R, 96 min. Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place, Kurtwood Smith, Burt Reynolds.

REVIEWED Fri., March 14, 1997

Abortion rights is more a context than an "issue" for this take-no-prisoners satire on the clash between pro-choice and pro-life forces. At the center of the chaos is Ruth Stoops (Dern), a no-account white-trash derelict who's pregnant with her fourth illegitimate child and has just been jailed for her incorrigible paint huffing. She's quickly bailed out by a pro-life activist couple (Place and Smith) who envision the brain-fried naïf as a poster girl for their cause and begin pressuring her to publicly renounce her plans for an abortion. But just as Ruth begins to waver, a pro-choice group counters with its own brainwashing campaign aimed at swaying her. Neither side of the controversy fares well, but as Citizen Ruth's strong, sharply focused ending suggests, we can at least purge the dialogue of the extraneous hoopla and put the focus back on the women whose bodies, minds, and intimate decisions are the heart of the matter
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