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Both previous features (Gal Young 'Un, A Flash of Green) by Florida-based independent Victor Nunez are good, but this one's a beauty: his first original script, it details the everyday adventures and encounters of a woman in her early 20s (Ashley Judd) who flees the Tennessee mountains for a Florida resort town, Panama City Beach, along the “Redneck Riviera,” where she finds work in a souvenir shop. Like Eric Rohmer (another older filmmaker who favors attractive young heroines), Nunez has an untiring, subtly novelistic fascination with ordinary people and events and the special feel of particular places. Thanks to a natural and highly charismatic performance by Judd, Ruby in Paradise (1993) has a graceful lyricism—as well as a complex sense of what living in today's world is like—that will stay with you; the tempo is slow and dreamy, but the flavor is rich, and it lasts. With Todd Field, Bentley Mitchum, Allison Dean, and Dorothy Lyman.

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