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Citizen Ruth

Laura Dern is hilarious an addict unwittingly caught in the midst of America's culture wars, in Alexander Payne's superb first feature - previously unreleased in the UK.

Drama 1996 106 mins Not rated

Director: Alexander Payne


Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) burst onto the scene with this deliciously scabrous satire, in which a shamelessly irresponsible solvent-addict (Laura Dern), agreeing to terminate her latest pregnancy to avoid jail, is befriended by both fundamentalist pro-lifers and pro-choice feminists. Hypocrisy, bigotry and a devotion to money are pilloried, though Payne and his co-writer Jim Taylor like their characters even as they deplore their motives.

Dern gives a great performance, while her mother Diane Ladd, Tippi Hedren, Burt Reynolds and Kenneth Mars fill out a cherishable cast. Despite Payne's handsome reputation from his subsequent films, Miramax never saw fit to release Citizen Ruth in the UK in either cinemas or home video, presumably in the belief that the stridency of America's culture-wars may seem alien to 1990s British audiences. Today's less closeted viewers can finally enjoy Payne's brilliant and all-too-relevant comedy.