LIFE, LIBERTY, MONEY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT.
Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), a glue sniffer, finds herself pregnant; suddenly, both pro-life and pro-choice groups make her the center of attention. Director Alexander Payne’s first film tackles the red-hot abortion issue but refuses to take sides. Viewers are supposed to identify with poor Ruth who doesn’t know which activists to believe. Payne shows this culture war as the unpleasant thing it is; a lot of people on both sides are portrayed either as hypocrites or nutjobs, but there are also plenty of tender and funny moments. This film is also just as much about the power of interest groups as it is about abortion. Dern gives one of her best performances.
1996-U.S. 109 min. Color. Produced by Cathy Konrad, Cary Woods. Directed by Alexander Payne. Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor. Cast: Laura Dern (Ruth Stoops), Swoosie Kurtz (Diane Siegler), Mary Kay Place (Gail Stoney), Kurtwood Smith, Kelly Preston, M.C. Gainey… Kenneth Mars, Burt Reynolds, Tippi Hedren. Cameo: Diane Ladd.
Last word: “My love for finding empathy and voice in untenable human territory made me determined to force myself on [Payne and Taylor]. I could love nothing more as an actor than one specific challenge — which is finding an empathetic place for a character we would ordinarily have disdain for, and Alexander happens to love that, too. Alexander, Jim and I have the same sensibility and that’s a very rare thing to find.” (Dern, The Reader)