Citizen Ruth (Film) Review

Nothing ushers in the festive period like a film about a well-publicised (fictional) abortion tussle.

Although I should say, it’s my fault this one falls on what should be the beginning of Christmas Movie Month. Unfortunately, my social calendar stopped me from viewing and posting this film on time last week (boo hoo). Both Jill and I agreed we weren’t quite ready for Xmas though so who honestly cares?

*Spoilers*

The Movie

Citizen Ruth (1996)

Director

Alexander Payne

Cast

Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place

IMDB Synopsis

An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.

“I don’t wanna go back to jail again. Least not for more than a week or two.” ~ Ruth

My Review

Ruth doesn’t lead what you would call the traditional life. In fact, if we’re being blunt, she lives quite a pitiful existence and has little to call her own. She’s addicted to any substance she can get her hands on, does not have a fixed address and has four children she never sees, split across three different homes. I’m not judging her at this point, these are just facts.

When she’s arrested for “illegal inhalation” for the nth time (who’s counting?), she hits an extra snag. She finds out she’s pregnant again and the judge, who’s had enough, decides she should be tried for “felony criminal endangerment of a fetus” – a much more serious charge that will carry substantial jail time. It is ironic then when he pulls her aside later and tells her he’ll be much more lenient on her if she gets rid of the problem instead.

Well, Ruth is on the same page but in clink she meets a band of “Baby Savers” who have been kicking up a stink outside some abortion clinics, and shit starts to get real. Taken under the wing of The Stoneys (Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place), it soon becomes clear what their agenda is. They provide a comfortable home and board but at what cost, eh Ruth?

Things are nice and cosy for a while but Ruth soon finds their son’s modelling glue and well, you can guess the rest…

Good clean fun

So family friend Diane (Kurtz) steps in to help out with the care of Ruth (who has lapsed spectacularly more than once). She quickly reveals herself to be an undercover spy for the Pro-choice brigade, working the Baby Savers from the inside. Which is great, right? Well, nobody really comes off well in this movie, even the ones I naturally agree with.

Ruth finds herself swept away by Diane and her moon-serenading girlfriend Rachel (Kelly Preston) to a remote home in the woods, where they are protected by Harlan (M.C. Gainey) a sort of volunteer security guard. With both sides fighting hard to keep her onside, what the fuck is messed up Ruth supposed to do?

And when the cash offers start rolling in – first of all from the Baby Savers, then Harlan’s personal bank account to even the playing field – Ruth gets even more twisted. The woman has nothing and will take direction from the highest bidder, surely?

I guess the most immediate question is: Will Ruth go through with the termination or change her mind at the last minute?

I need this t-shirt. STAT.

My Thoughts

I don’t really know what to feel and I really don’t know how to talk about what this film really means. I mean, it’s an abortion ‘comedy’ which is always going to be a hard one to carry off but I like it for that.

It speaks bluntly about women’s choices and the autonomy they should have over their own bodies – but it’s also a look at fanaticism and the dehumanisation of the subject when it comes to the war of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Both sides are very keen to tell Ruth what to do and aren’t really concerned with what she thinks or feels.

I’m gonna stay here. and I’m gonna have that abortion like I wanted. ‘Cause I’m a citizen and… and I got my rights to, um, PICK! ~ Ruth

I don’t like anybody in this movie, least of all Ruth who is frustrating in so many ways. She’s a mess and nobody is really offering her the help she needs, if she even wants it, which I don’t think she does. There isn’t one character anyway I feel the need to cheer for and that’s an odd feeling.

“Cheer up love, it might ne… oh.”

However, I really enjoy the fact that there is no redemption arc for Ruth. It would be forced and disingenuous for her to finally become a decent person at the end of all this. The movie’s climax is perfect and feels authentic, even if it is bleak AF.

Also, Laura Dern is The Queen.

My Rating

3/5.

What does my love think of this one? Would she boycott it or let it make its own decisions in life? Find out here.

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Obvious Child (Film) Review

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The final installment in our Films about How Fucking Hard It Is to be an Adult series and this is a good one to go out on, I feel. It’s pretty topical too when you consider all the Repeal the 8th stuff going on right now (it’s obviously been ongoing).

I’ve seen this before a couple of times and wasn’t disappointed when Jill chose it to view this week. Our originally scheduled film fell by the wayside due to my reluctance to pay for it (though it’s a good ‘un so there’s little doubt we’ll come back to it in good time).

Sooooo, without further ado, and a fair share of *Spoilers* too:

Obvious Child (2014)

Director & Writer: Gillian Robespierre
Stars: Jenny Slate, Jake Lacy, Gaby Hoffman

IMDB Synopsis: A twenty-something comedienne’s unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time.

My Review:

Donna Stern (Slate) is a stand up comic with medium success (some nights are better than others, put it that way). Recently dumped (by her boyfriend in the Trainspotting-esque toilet in da club for one of her friends no less), she’s a hot mess. Lucky she has an outlet for all her rage and misery right?

One night, drunk and in charge of the mic, Donna goes in on her ex on stage. At the bar, she catches the eye of Max (Lacy) who (luckily?) misses her set. The two share a spark (mutual street peeing and an accidental fart), and one thing leads to another – they bang, Donna leaves in the morning – and that my friends is that.

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“I love the smell of Pumpkin Spice Latte in the morning…”

Except it isn’t is it, because this is an 84 minute film (the perfect length if you ask me) and we have to go somewhere with the characters. Might as well eh? A few weeks later Donna discovers she is preggo. Scheduling an abortion at Planned Parenthood, she has the option of two dates: her mother’s birthday or Valentine’s Day. The latter wins out.

Before she even has a chance to think about telling Max, or even if she has to (her best friend Nellie doesn’t see why she would), he tracks her down at the bookshop she works in. Things are awkward. They take an even odder turn when Max turns up at Donna’s mother’s house while she’s there to return a book he borrowed (he’s a former student of her mum).

The two end up having lunch and although Donna plans to tell him about the termination, he says something that prompts her to keep quiet. There’s more awkwardness between our two new friends as they establish what they are to one another, Donna goes home/to bed with someone else, and all that crap that comes with getting to know someone (“Getting to know all about yooooo!”).

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“Nice scarf, loser!” “Likewise!”

Along the way, Donna confides all her woes to her mother, Nancy (Polly Draper) who comforts her and then admits that she too had an abortion before Donna was conceived.

This is ultimately an unconventional love story of sorts, so that’s not the end of our lovers. Donna makes a mistake then reaches out to Max to try and fix it. She ends up fucking up even harder when he finds out about her pregnancy and impending abortion when he shows up to see her comedy set. Ooops.

Questions:

Is there a way back from this? Can Donna and Max start afresh with this ‘baggage’ already behind them?

I’d recommend you check it out for yourselves to answer these questions. It’s worth it, I promise.

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When life give you boxes…

My Thoughts:

I like this movie. It’s unapologetic of course for it’s subject matter but it’s the way in which it’s handled that I appreciate. It has a maturity about it and although our main protagonist is a flake who’s likeability factor fluctuates, she’s ultimately true to herself and that’s interesting to watch.

It raises interesting conversation about Women’s Rights, autonomy over their own bodies and whether a one night stand has the right to know any of this if you don’t want him too. It delivers all sorts of perspectives and opinions, and it’s got a great cast.

Gaby Hoffman, Jenny Slate and Jake Lacy have all appeared in Lena Dunham‘s Girls at some point in their careers and I suppose you could liken the feel of Obvious Child to that hyper-real style of film-making.

I love the Mother/Daughter stuff and I like the way it ends, it’s sweet and heart-warming. I also respect the notion that a journey like this would likely change a person, and it’s entirely possible that would be for the better. There’s also no question throughout this, as there so often is in films/shows that feature abortion that there will be a termination at the end, and I think that’s so important. It happens.

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The foundation of any great relationship

My Rating: 4/5. Pretty solid. I like it.

How did Wifey feel about this one? Did it IMPREGNATE her with joy or… not? Find out here.