Fight for Life
Release Date: December 13, 1996
Starring: Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz,
Kurtwood Smith, Mary Kay
Place, Burt Reynolds, & Tippi
Runtime: 104 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films
Director: Alexander Payne
Producer: Cary Woods & Cathy Konrad
Writer: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
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The Stoneys have a bigger mission than just providing Ruth with lodging. They are part of a strong anti-abortion group, and Ruth is a strong symbol of their cause, so it is a matter of time before the media catches onto the story. When Ruth is caught by the Stoneys inhaling again and then hitting their young son, they give up on her and pass her on to another of their group, Diane (Swoosie Kurtz). Unknown to the Stoneys, Diane is actually a pro-choice spy, and together with her lover, Rachel (Kelly Preston), she tries to dissuade Ruth from keeping the baby.
Ruth is now bombarded with propaganda about women’s rights where their bodies are concerned. In between, she listens to Diane and Rachel sing to the goddess moon. When Ruth lets the cat out of the bag to the Stoneys about Diane’s masquerade, there is literally war, with Ruth caught in the middle.
As the fight between anti-abortionists and pro-lifers takes on national proportions, money is brought into the picture. Anti-abortionists offer Ruth $15,000, an amount that is equaled by a supporter in Diane’s camp. Ruth shrieks with glee over this sudden fortune and is oblivious to the warring factions. Instead, she listens to a self-help tape on how to put down money for a house. As the fight between the two camps escalates, Ruth starts to make her own plans to escape being the pawn of either group.
Taking a heavy-handed issue like abortion and making light of it is no easy task, but director/writer Alexander Payne effortlessly spins the story of Ruth Stoops into an entertaining tale. While grains of reality are evident everywhere in the story, the film caricatures without offending. Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place together are delightful -- a parody of godly goodness, who show determination for their cause. In contrast, we see a lesbian couple fighting for their cause. Although the fight builds up to gigantic proportions, and there is some use of guns to threaten and some pushing here and there, the film is never mean-spirited and cruel. Everything is done with whimsy.
It is undeniably Laura Dern who holds center stage. Ruth Snoops, who is constantly passing out between inhalation sprees or wailing when she doesn’t get her way, is the show-stealer. Playing Ruth to a perfect beat, Laura Dern creates a sympathetic character who finally, and funnily, wises up to her own troubles.
The film has numerous moments of strong and positive references to God and the Bible, with plenty of praying and hymn-singing. It portrays the anti-abortionists as people who turn to the foundation of godly teachings to fight their cause, and who are not afraid to say so. Regrettably, Burt Reynolds as the celebrated preacher Blaine Gibbons hints at having a seamier side to his character. There are moments where the film pokes fun at Christians, along with many profanities. While the film does show two sides to the abortion issue, it does not take a stand leaving the issue open and only resolving it through Ruth Snoop’s own personal insight and understanding of the issues involved.
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This is a well done comedy, as it battles the issue of abortion. Presenting both sides of the controversy, the movie positions anti-abortionists as godly Christians who pray and sing hymns to support their cause, denouncing abortion as sinful. There are plenty of positive references to God, but there are occasions when the film does poke fun at the Christians “baby-savers.” It also shows a seamy, slick preacher. Despite its strong Christian references, the comic satire contains strong language, fornication and profanity. While the film does show two sides to the abortion issue, it does not take a stand, leaving the issue to be resolves through Ruth Snoop’s own personal insight and understanding of the issues involved.