Womb with a Viewpoint

Payne seems to have been going for the effect of Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (renamed The Big Carnival), but with a much cheerier overall tone, or, perhaps more directly, Preston Sturges's similar tale of small-town folly, Hail the Conquering Hero. His collection of mid-America eccentrics and fools suggests much of Sturges's work. What Sturges managed that Payne as yet lacks is a sense of everyone's human dignity -- a sense without which satire can descend to viciousness. There were rarely, if ever, any real "bad guys" in Sturges's universe; Payne has no "bad guys" either, but he never quite gives the Stoneys their due. Their real-world counterparts may be deluded, they may be wrong, but they're a tad more human than Citizen Ruth ever quite conveys.

Citizen Ruth.
Directed by Alexander Payne; written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor; with Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Kurtwood Smith, Mary Kay Place, Kelly Preston, M.C. Gainey, Burt Reynolds, Kenneth Mars, Alicia Witt, Tippi Hedren, Caveh Zahedi, and Diane Ladd.

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