A Svenska Filminstitutet / Filmarkivet print of a Triangelfilm import with Swedish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Alexander Payne), 4 August 2015
Alexander Payne's debut feature film is already an terrific accomplishment, a satire which unfolds with an assured touch in a narrative with ample potential to offend everybody. Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor immediately reach a high level of satire and wit, to be compared with Lubitsch, Wilder, and especially Sturges (The Miracle of Morgan's Creek). The constantly surprising Citizen Ruth and Election belong to the great accomplishments of American film satire.
The performances are impeccable. Laura Dern creates bravely a protagonist without glamour and without redeeming qualities.
Among my favourite sequences: - Ruth as the house-guest spends hours in the bath-tub while her foster family gets bored waiting for her to appear for dinner - the nasty teenage daughter finds in Ruth a soulmate - the son's construction set of Noah's Ark only interests Ruth for the glue.
The visual devices are interesting, including subjective views, even fly vision, straight overhead shots (the chicken dinner), and upside down views.
The film exaggerates the combat between the pro-choice and pro-life camps, but this is no facile satire of religious fundamentalism. With mothers like Ruth on the loose, the arguments for pro-choice might seem to weigh heavier. We might smile at the religious families and their constant hymn-singing, but their contribution and messag seems more substantial than Ruth's rampage.
The print is clean and complete, the visual quality regular with a slightly duped or speed-printed look, getting better towards the later reels.
PROGRAMME NOTE BASED ON ROGER EBERT BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK