Heard the One About the Mother-in-law
Have you heard the one about the mother-in-law who was such a nag that her son-in-law bludgeoned her to death? No I am not telling you a joke but describing "The Book of Ruth" a made for TV movie from 2004 starring Christine Lahti as the mother-in-law whose constant jibes and put downs lead to her death. It's not a bad little movie with good performances from Lahti and Nicholle Tom as her daughter but there is nothing which stands out about it to make it worth a second viewing.
All her life Ruth (Nicholle Tom - Indecent Seduction) knew her mum Maylene (Christine Lahti - Housekeeping) didn't really want her, that she was her cross to bear and her mum through her constant put downs made her know it. After her brother leaves home things get worse as Ruth ends up working at the same dry cleaners as her mum leaving her with no escape from the jibes and matters get worse when Ruth meets laid back Ruby (Evan Jones - 8 Mile) and they marry and have a child as they end up living with Maylene. As things continue to get worse it is only a matter of time before someone snaps.
Like so many made for TV movies "The Book of Ruth" starts immediately after the crime as we see a battered and bruised Ruth being taken to hospital but also being questioned by the police who suspect of her murder. It then takes us back to the start only occasionally leaping back to the now with the occasional interview with a friend or scene involving the police. As to the start well it details Ruth's life with her bitter and sarcastic mum who whilst proud of her son Mark keeps putting Ruth down with her caustic jibes. And it is surprisingly powerful stuff as we understand how this abuse, the shunning when Ruth gets attention and much more affects her. This continues as we see Ruth then date, marry and have a child with Ruby whilst choosing to stay living with her mum to help her with the bills leading to Ruby as well as Ruth being the butt of Maylene's jibes till eventually one of them snaps.
The thing about "The Book of Ruth" is that it is less about what happens and more about the patient Ruth putting up with her mother's bitter abuse and twisted jibes. It's because it tells us up front what happens that it then takes are involvement away especially as the only thing close to mystery is cleared up within the first 15 minutes.
Despite that "The Book of Ruth" still keeps your attention thanks to two good performances with Lahti delivering a stunning performance as the bitter mother whilst Nicholle Tom is equally as good as the loving daughter who endures the constant put downs. Whilst Lahti and Tom work well together other performances whilst not terrible border on the cliche and slightly over the top.
What this all boils down to is that "The Book of Ruth" is an entertaining little drama starring Christine Lahti and Nicholle Tom but it is nothing out of the ordinary.