Abortion for grins

Citizen Ruth is pro-choice, pro-life...and pro laughs!

Payne seems to have been going for the effect of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (The Big Carnival), but with a much cheerier overall tone, or, perhaps more directly, Preston Sturges' similar tale of small-town folly, Hail the Conquering Hero. His collection of mid-American eccentrics and fools suggests much of Sturges' work. What Sturges managed that Payne as yet lacks is a sense of everyone's human dignity--a sense without which satire can descend to viciousness. There were rarely, if ever, any real "bad guys" in Sturges' universe; Payne has no "bad guys" either, but he never quite gives the Stoneys their due. Their real-world counterparts may be deluded, they may be wrong, but they're a tad more human than Citizen Ruth ever quite conveys.

Citizen Ruth.
Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kurtwood Smith, Mary Kay Place, Kelly Preston, M.C. Gainey, Burt Reynolds, Kenneth Mars, Alicia Witt, Tippi Hedren, Caveh Zahedi, and Diane Ladd. Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Directed by Payne. Opens Friday.

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