Citizen Ruth

Director: Alexander Payne
Year Released: 1997
Rating: 1.5

Wretched, awful agit-prop about the abortion debate, with an apathetic, money-hungry Laura Dern being tugged at both ends by pro-life people and pro-choice people, both of which want her to follow their belief (have it or don't have it) and become a symbol for their respective movement. What is supposed to be a satire turns into an ugly, slanderous mess that turns everyone into fools - the fanatics are all ridiculous and loathsome, as is Dern, who's only interested in getting high and/or drunk (or anything that benefits her financially). It's drawn out to ungodly lengths (naturally, it starts off with Dern in moral hell, screaming and crying at her inability to straighten out) and populated with creepy non-humans (pro-life phony Burt Reynolds gets a back massage by a young boy; pro-choice mavens Swoosie Kurtz and Kelly Preston are lesbians), and the debate turns into a silly tirade - Payne and screenwriter Taylor assume both sides are fools, and expect us to follow nihilistic Dern's decision and sneak out the bathroom door. It's bad dramatically, comedically and politically, though it guns for all three.