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Ruby in Paradise.

"Ruby in Paradise" (October Films) is far from perfect, but is a pleasant change of pace. Made on a relatively small budget by Victor Nunez, an independent film-maker who also wrote the script, it tells of a young woman fleeing an abusive family in Tennessee to try a new life in a Florida beach town. Its greatest asset is Ashley Judd in the title role.

Ruby is trying to find out who she is, and the script emphasizes small discoveries rather than melodramatics. She gets a job in a shop featuring tourist souvenirs and is warned by the owner (Dorothy Lyman) that employees are not to date her son Ricky (Bentley Mitchum).

The script jumps, almost without dialogue, to a quick, empty affair between Ruby and the arrogant Ricky, which eventually costs her the job at the tourist shop, almost ruining her chance for independence. More suggestive passages show Ruby and another employee, Rochelle (Allison Dean), walking along the deserted beach and beginning to share confidences. Rochelle, an upbeat young black woman who is going to college and looks forward to marrying her fiance when he finishes school in Atlanta, helps teach Ruby to value herself.

One of the best things about "Ruby in Paradise" is that it necessarily calls for an inconclusive ending. Though Ruby becomes involved with the gentle and caring Mike (Todd Field), she must work out her own answers; besides, Mike's downbeat intellectualizing seems to leave no reason for going on. The director has no intention of promoting religion, but it is hardly accidental that he frames the action with a Hindu hymn, chanted serenely by a young Indian woman carrying freshly laundered sheets past Ruby's room.

Ruby is still puzzling over questions like "Where does caring come from? Can we ever know our true desires? And why are we all so often lonely and afraid?" After she chats with the Indian woman and asks her about the song, the latter says, "Perhaps you will want to learn it someday."
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Author:Cunneen, Joseph
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Nov 12, 1993
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