Ruby in Paradise (2021)

From left: Allison Dean and Ashley Judd in a scene from 1993's "Ruby in Paradise" from writer-director Victor Nunez, now fully restored in HD. (Image: Quiver Distribution) 

Let’s talk about Ashley Judd’s first starring role, 1993’s “Ruby in Paradise.” The film written, directed, and edited by Victor Nunez ("Gal Young 'Un," "A Flash of Green") won the Grand Jury Prize for Drama at the Sundance Film Festival and the late Roger Ebert picked the film as one of the Top 10 releases that year.

Ashley Judd was 24-years old when she was cast as Ruby Lee Gissing, a young girl looking to start a new life after her mother passes away. She moves from Tennessee to Panama City, Florida finding work at Chamber’s Beach Emporium, a mega souvenir shop owned by Mildred Chambers, played by the wonderful Dorothy Lyman who I loved watching on the “Carol Burnett Show” spinoff series “Mama’s Family” starring Vicki Lawrence — she played Mama’s daughter-in-law, Naomi.

It’s a coming of age story as Ruby transitions into a woman while learning about love and life. She befriends coworker Rochelle (Allison Dean from “Coming to America”) who is just working at the souvenir shop until she gets her college degree, and a couple of men enter Ruby's life including Mildred’s pampered son Ricky (Bentley Mitchum), a player who keeps a stack of portable cd players wrapped in red bows that he gives each conquest for those “lonely nights when we can’t be together.” Her other love interest is Mike (Todd Field) who works at a garden and pottery store. He’s humbler than Ricky but not a fan of feminism as he believes Ruby’s place is at home not the workplace and especially not in college when she considers going back to school.

Life in the “Redneck Riviera” is not very glamorous for Ruby who narrates the film while writing in her journal. When she’s not quoting Emily Dickinson, Judd’s soothing voice-over adds a surreal yet poetic tone to Nunez’s film, one that Terrence Malick dreams are made of.

“On the edge of the edge, a dream. Everyone I’d ever known was there. Living on a beautiful mountain, we all did our share. We all felt joy in being alive. Wild and free without harm without sorrow. Beyond reality, beyond fantasy, only there, only there.”

“Ruby in Paradise” features a remarkable debut by a then promising unknown named Ashley Judd. Presented in a new HD master, fully restored from the original camera rolls and audio tracks, the film looks and sounds better than ever. For many years it’s been off my radar but thanks to Quiver Distribution this wonderful gem has resurfaced and is now available via Virtual Cinema and to rent or own on various digital platforms.

Recommended For You


Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic. 

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.
0
0
0
0
0

Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Transparency. Your full name is required.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article. And receive photos, videos of what you see.
Don’t be a troll. Don’t be a troll. Don’t post inflammatory or off-topic messages, or personal attacks.

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.

To subscribe, click here. Already a subscriber? Click here.