xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The last forty minutes of the movie do come together in a pretty diverting way.
Dick Bartlett’s “Ruby” is one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever seen, and one of the funniest, and one of the saddest. It draws such a thin line between pathos and satire that some scenes seem to be on both sides at once, and it creates characters that are simultaneously “real” and completely unbelievable; the movie almost resists description.
It’s being shown as part of the fifth anniversary celebration at the Film Center of the Art Institute - and if it’s perhaps not one of the best films shown at the center during the last five years, it’s got to be one of the most unforgettable. It marries middle America and the National Lampoon, as if Lawrence Welk were starring on Saturday Night Live.
Its heroine, Ruby, is a school bus driver in her middle 50s. She’s married to Clifford, a paraplegic who spends his days making fudge in an incredibly sloppy kitchen, and his nights watching television. We also meet Ruby’s brother, George, and his daughter, Vivian, who George forces to wear a chastity belt. And we meet Earl Tibbets, the has-been nightclub performer that Ruby falls in love with.
So far I could be describing “Mary Hartman.” But Bartlett directs this material in the oddest way, presenting the bizarre with an absolutely straight face, so that the movie constantly challenges us to make up our minds about it. Is Ruby’s whirlwind romance with Earl being made fun of? Yes, but it’s a little wonderful, too, especially in her fantasy of running through a field with Earl her orange pants suit streaming behind her in the wind. And what about Vivian’s battle with the chastity belt, especially in the scene where her desperate boyfriend protects her stomach with double-strength aluminum foil and then goes after the padlock with a blowtorch?