The NY Times' movie reviewer A. O. Scott takes a look back at Citizen Ruth, a comedy about abortion. It was made by Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways), and starred Laura Dern in one of her best roles.
I'm very glad Scott took the time to review this movie and remind the world of its existence. It is criminally underappreciated. It's possibly the only movie ever made that is almost perfectly evenhanded in its treatment of both sides of the abortion issue.
And it's a comedy. A good one. An oddly sweet, yet sort of dark, very insightful comedy about abortion. Quite probably the only one ever made.
Laura Dern plays a slacker who spends most of her time inhaling glue or paint. She's about as far down the social ladder as you can go. She's arrested, for the umpeenth time. She discovers that she's pregnant. The judge orders her to have an abortion. She's joined in jail by members of an anti-abortion group, who have been arrested for civil disobedience. They take her under their wing . . . until a feminist group kidnaps her, and take her under THEIR wing.
Payne flirts with stereotypes, but also brings the characters to life. Walking that edge is where he finds comic gold.
It helps that he has a great cast, including Swoosie Kurtz and Burt Reynolds.
The only criticism that I have of the movie applies to the poster. Laura Dern is shown as a smiling Lady Liberty, which is about the farthest thing from what she is in the movie. So the marketing is terrible. That's understandable, in a way. I'm not sure how I would have tried to market a comedy about abortion that could both amuse and offend both sides.
Every once in a great while, a movie comes along that reminds you of what a great thing it is that we have freedom of speech in this country. This is one of those movies.