Framing the Framed Self: A Reading of Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise
Department of Literature and Modern Languages
Ruby in Paradise (1994) is an independent film written and directed by Victor Nunez that employs narrative film and film practices somewhat unconventionally. While the film enjoyed strong, favorable reviews and the benefits of a Hollywood distribution, it was not the product of a Hollywood studio. 1 Despite working loosely within the traditional linear narrative frame, it does not fit the mold of the typical Hollywood film, owing to its grainy look, languid camera shots, and slow-paced action. Moreover, the film's star is not a prostitute, sex object/victim, wife/mother, or babe; nor is she a "male wanna be" action hero or his gorgeous sidekick. And so, like the film itself, she bears little resemblance to representations of female characters offered in standard Hollywood fare. Ruby Lee Gissing, played deftly and convincingly by Ashley Judd in her first starring role, is a twenty-something Southern woman who attempts to flee the Bible-belt mentality of her lower-middle-class upbringing and establish her independence. In accordance with his unorthodox protagonist, Nunez's independent film toys with and subverts conventional cinematic mechanisms, thereby underscoring the constructed nature of Ruby's subjectivity or selfhood in flux. This co-optation occurs through a confluence of the how (cinematic construction) and the what (narrative or plot) of the film--that is, the director (atypically) frames a self in the act of framing a self that both opposes and engages in the process of construction. In this way, then, Ruby's autobiographical voice, which is the organizing consciousness of the narrative, both underscores and challenges the (male) director's framing. The tension between Ruby's authoring voice and Nunez's quasi-conventional cinematic rendering of a woman's life highlights [End Page 425] the paradox inherent in both the construction of Ruby's "self," or more appropriately, "selves" in the making, as well as in the male director's cinematic construction of her subjectivity.
Waites, K. J. (2001). Framing the Framed Self: A Reading of Victor Nunez’s Ruby in Paradise. Biography, 24 (2), 425-441. https://doi.org/10.1353/bio.2001.0046