Linda Cook review: ‘Ruby in Paradise’ is superb, timely as ever since its 1993 original release

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How can a movie be even more relevant in 2021 than in its release year of 1993?

Quiver Distribution has released screenwriter/director Victor Nunez’s “Ruby in Paradise” in a new high-definition master.

I’m so glad. Hardly anyone saw it before, and this film is well worth seeing. I remember watching and loving this movie upon its release as a new film, and I enjoyed it every bit as much when I saw it again two days ago.

Its tone and its story make a nice companion to the exquisite “Nomadland,” about an older woman adapting to her unplanned life on the road.

In her first starring role, Ashley Judd plays Ruby, a young woman who leaves Tennessee and finds work at a souvenir shop in Panama City Beach.

At first, Mildred Chambers (Dorothy Lyman, “Mama’s Family”) isn’t sure about hiring Ruby, who tells her “I work cheap.”

Ruby turns out to be a conscientious employee. She is befriended by a coworker, the determined Rochelle (Allison Dean, “Tears of the Sun”) who tells her to stay away from Mildred’s son (Bentley Mitchum, grandson of Robert Mitchum.)

Of course, they get together. And Ruby also meets another man of vastly different temperament and ambitions.

While she tries to figure out her future, she keeps a journal that serves as a platform for her character’s voiceovers.

This is character study may be fictional, but it’s realistic. The fragility of Ruby’s life, and the strength of the bonds she forms with the women around her, always ring true.

The movie won the 1993 Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the Sundance Film Festival, and Judd earned the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.

It’s no wonder. I’m glad to welcome Ruby back, and other indie-film aficionados will want to meet her, too.

4 stars

Running time: One hour and 54 minutes.

Rated: R for foul language, nudity and sexual situations.

Streaming on Vudu and Prime Video.

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