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February 16, 2021

Ruby in Paradise

ruby in paradise.jpg

Victor Nunez - 1993
Quiver Distribution

Ruby in Paradise opens with a scene of the title character on the road, driving on a two lane highway in Florida. The driver behind her honks his horn for Ruby to drive faster before he gets in front and speeds ahead. Whatever speed Ruby is driving, she has set her own pace as the one she is most comfortable with. Ruby is the creation of writer-director Victor Nunez who has created his own brand of independent filmmaking, modestly budgeted stories of outsiders who call small town Florida as their home.

The film takes place in Panama City, a resort destination along the Northwest panhandle, dependent on the seasonal trade. Coming in during the off-season, Ruby talks her way into working at a large souvenir shop, eventually showing her abilities to the owner. Paradise is how Florida is portrayed for vacationers who might purchase small, plastic framed photos of sunsets and sailboats on the beach. For Ruby, the store chock full of sunglasses, inexpensive beach wear and knick-knacks is another kind of paradise. Ruby is self aware that her current aspirations may be modest, but she plans to make the most of what she has at least until she has a more certain idea of her future.

Seeing the film in light of more recent discussions regarding the #MeToo movement and male sense of entitlement makes the secondary plot of Ruby's relationships with two young men more timely. Ricky, the son of the store owner, uses his flashy appearance and his status as the owner's son to impose himself on the female employees he finds attractive. From Ricky's point of view, there is no reason for Ruby not to maker herself available to him. Ruby later begins a relationship with Mike, an employee at a gardening shop. Mike is the opposite of Ricky - gentlemanly, respectful. At the same time, Ruby eventual tires of his condescending attitude her pleasure in "popcorn" movies, as well as her expressing interest in possibly going to college. Mike tries to position himself as a White Knight for a damsel who is not looking to be saved.

The film has been previously noted for showcasing Ashley Judd, at that time credited with a couple of supporting roles on television plus one small film role. While I have only followed her career sporadically, it seems like Judd only infrequently got the kind of roles that displayed her abilities, usually in independent productions such as The Passion of Darkly Noon and Bug. Judd was 25 at the time she filmed Ruby, but I forgot how young looking she was, especially her face, given a natural appearance.

What has not changed is the notion of work, of how people choose to define themselves, or not, by the jobs they have. At one point, Ruby is temporarily unemployed, finally getting a job at an industrial laundry. For her co-workers, it is the kind of work taken with the idea that it is temporary until the proverbial "something better" comes along. Ruby addresses the reality that people find themselves in jobs that in spite of dreams or aspirations, become permanent, and that people do find ways to cope with work that is routine or has specific physical demands. Ruby in Paradise goes against the grain of most Hollywood films by saying even the most modest of realized goals is still worth celebrating.

Ruby in Paradise is available in HD through multiple home platforms.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 16, 2021 05:56 AM