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Alexander Payne Retrospective

November 8, 2011 2:18 a.m.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks back at the films of Alexander Payne.

Related Story: Rants and Raves: Alexander Payne


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR INTRO: Fox Searchlight treats San Diego audiences to a retrospective of Alexander Payne's films in anticipation of next week's release of his new film "The Descendants." KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando looks back on his films.

RETRO 1 (ba) 1:19

Director Alexander Payne finds comedy in unlikely places. In Sideways, he finds bittersweet humor in the mid-life crisis of a man on a wine trip. In About Schmidt, he looks to the regrets of a recently retired and widowed man. And in his first film, Citizen Ruth, he finds comedy in a young woman seeking an abortion.

CITIZEN RUTH: Have you ever really taken the time to consider what it means to have an abortion?... It means that I don't have to go to jail and it means I don't have to have another baby and it means I can start getting my life back in order... I-I-I-I-I isn't that a little selfish. (:15)

In "Citizen Ruth," Payne skewers both sides of the abortion issue as well as the news media that fans the flames of the debate. Payne can be a brutal satirist as in "Election," where he put an obnoxiously perky go-getter on the ticket for a high school election.

ELECTION: Some people say I'm an overachiever but I think they're just jealous. My mom always tells me I'm different, you know, special. (:08)

Payne likes flawed characters, perhaps because they provide fertile ground for comedy and exploration. But Payne's also attracted to the humanity of these imperfect individuals. The upcoming retrospective at Reading's Gaslamp Theaters showcases all four of his previous films. It also allows us to revisit his rich, complex work so that we can savor and reconsider them from different perspectives in our own lives.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.