'Ruby' turns intrigue of JFK assassination into predictable melodrama

July 24, 1992|By Nancy Spiller


Columbia TriStar (1992)

Rated R

Once again I approached a film starring Danny Aiello with high hopes that the actor would have chosen a script worthy of his talent. Once again I was disappointed.

His warm, sandy-voiced Everyman is cooling into earnest shtick. I also watched "Ruby" with the hopes that it would further illuminate the puzzle surrounding the Kennedy assassination, wanting it to be as entertaining and informative as "JFK." I was wrong on that count as well.

"Ruby" is a study in how not to dramatize the circumstances surrounding that day in Dallas in November 1963. The intricate threads of conspiracy theories are lost when hung on this attempt at a sexy story. Fact is mixed with fiction in the name of hybrid truth. And the results are just plain dumb.

"Ruby" is about Jack Ruby (Aiello), the Dallas strip-joint owner who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. The film starts off optimistically enough. It looks good and sounds good, in a made-for-TV way. Everyone's favorite made-for-TV babe, "Twin Peaks' " Sherilyn Fenn, stars as a pretty young thing Ruby finds in the Greyhound bus station he frequents after work. He dubs her Candy Cane, and she becomes the town's new dance sensation. While she's onstage taking it off, he's in the back room moonlighting as an FBI informant on the mob. Somehow the CIA, FBI and mob are all involved in the dance that leads to the Kennedy assassination, but it's never really clear exactly how.

Ruby and Candy Cane go to Cuba to visit an imprisoned mob chieftain. Ruby and Candy Cane go to Las Vegas for a mob convention. Kennedy drops in via helicopter for a surprise visit to TC the same casino, and Candy Cane gets invited to the presidential bed. Candy Cane leaves Ruby to become a nightclub singer in Washington, D.C. Who is Candy Cane supposed to be, anyway? Is she a cheap Judith Exner knock-off? How many Mafia tricks did Kennedy sleep with? Was this a fetish of his?

The film is a predictable melodrama that lacks any ring of truth. The pedestrian attempt at exploring the character of Ruby and ** Candy Cane (a couple of bums with hearts of gold) just gets in the way of a far more interesting and complex story.

The film's major contribution to our further understanding of the Kennedy assassination may be its portrayal of the president as a womanizing sex addict. Was he too distracted by his libido to recognize the plotters in his midst? "JFK" believed in what it was telling us and did a masterful job in getting its message across. "Ruby," unfortunately, isn't telling us anything we haven't heard before.

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