Ruby in Paradise Review

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Leaving behind her small town claustrophobic life in Tennessee, a young woman finds herself in Florida and starts a new life by working in the local tourist shop. She soon finds herself the victim of unwanted attention from her male colleagues.


On the run from her claustrophobic home in the mountains of East Tennessee, teenager Ruby Lee Gissing (Judd) washes up on the desolate shores of West Florida's Panama City. Finding employment in a local beach gift shop, she becomes the object of a multitude of attentions, from the uneasy friendship of co-worker Rochelle (Dean) to the less-than-gentlemanly gropings of store-owner Lyman's randy son Ricky (Mitchum, grandson of Robert). Surrounded by tack, artifice and junk, Ruby tries to make sense of her life through an intimate journal which acts as her own personal psychiatric couch.

Sensitively written and directed by no-budget indie maestro Victor Nunez and boasting a winning central performance by Ashley Judd and sturdy support from the rest of the ensemble, this has enough good points to sustain an understated, 90-minute movie. Sadly, Nunez fails to edit the ramshackle whole into such an appealingly digestible package: at 114 minutes this is a critical quarter-of-an-hour to long, pushing it all too frequently over the edge of intelligent whimsy and into rambling self-indulgence.

As the movie progresses, the lack of discipline worsens, until in the finale stages Nunez, unable to choose a single ending from a string of possibilities, simply staples all the options together, end to end. All of which is a shame because somewhere in the celluloid pile-up there's an enjoyable, poignant indie-pic struggling to get out. Next time, let's hope Nunez signs up with some hideously hard-arsed American producer who cuts his work to shreds in the name of popularism; the result may be surprisingly rewarding.

Judd is well cast as the small town gal looking to start afresh and gain her independence in this chick flick about learning who you are. The supporting cast allow Judd to spar of them, with the result a pleasing but by no means exciting story.