Directed by Julie Cohen, Betsy West
Starring – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bill Clinton, Sharon Frontiero
The Plot – At the age of 84, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a breathtaking legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. But without a definitive Ginsburg biography, the unique personal journey of this diminutive, quiet warrior’s rise to the nation’s highest court has been largely unknown, even to some of her biggest fans…until now.
Rated PG for some thematic elements and adult language
– Unique character framing. While it’s certainly no surprise for a documentary’s title figure to receive the royal treatment, Ginsburg’s superhero-like appeal is captured in the most unlikely of situations; with T-shirts and websites comparing her to figures like Notorious B.I.G. What I love about this is that it puts the world’s celebrity focus where it deserves to be; firmly with the support of those patriarchs who paved the way in crafting the world we live in today.
– Despite a brief runtime of 92 minutes, ‘RBG’ manages to envelope Ruth’s entire story, most notably her time on the Supreme Court bench, as well as her relationships at home. The latter was certainly more fascinating to me, as it’s in those interviews with her children, as well as soundbites from her deceased husband, that carve out a woman who truly did have and do it all. She never sacrificed her career to be a Mother or vice versa, and her up at dawn routine is firmly documented throughout.
– Because so many classic Supreme Court battles didn’t have the benefit of being filmed, we are treated to soundbites inside of the hearings as our depictions during the narrative. However, Cohen and West visually treat us to vital quotes that appear in eye-popping detail with a courtroom backdrop, to put us in the heat of the moment, without ever missing a step in dramatic pulse. This more than anything cements Ruth’s on-going legacy as a presence who never just rested on getting a seat at the table.
– Part of what makes Ruth such a lovable protagonist is her unabashed humility and selfless presence that is captured wonderfully in the up-close-and-personal style of shooting throughout this picture. Even at the age of 84, she can still command a room with her soft deliveries and stern-but-sweet personality that feels like the sweet grandmother we all deserved growing up. In the film, Ruth says she never yelled or intimidated when she spoke, because she believed that is the moment when a listener will tune out, and she couldn’t be more accurate, as my attention never withered or strained from hearing about her lasting legacy.
– My favorite aspect of the film that I think many people will indulge in, is her fifty-plus year marriage to her husband Martin. If there was ever a story for perfect couplings, Ruth and Martin take the cake. Throughout the picture, we learn that Martin was not only her biggest supporter during a time when the male majority was anything but, he was also her balancing act in making up in humor what she lacked. All of this is further elaborated on when you see the glow that Ruth preserves each time she looks at or speaks about him. There’s is a love too authentic for the silver screen.
– Revealing, insightful details. Even if you are the biggest of Ginsburg fans, ‘RBG’ will fill you with enough biographical, researched knowledge to make your head spin. Without spoiling a lot, some of the aspects of her time at Harvard Law greatly surprised me and enlightened me to the conditions that women were dealing with in seeking mutual employment. Interesting enough, this aspect of history repeats itself later on, when the focus turns to a group of females who seek entry into the Virginia Military Academy. You know what they say about learning from history.
– Now more than ever, a film like ‘RBG’ has such distinct value in those who seek the change that they wish to see in their own worlds. Inspiration is one thing, but this film teaches us that Ruth wasn’t alone in laying the bricks of activism, and if we’re going to see results of change, you won’t get a reaction without the action needed to push forward. Because of this, the film establishes that sense of being the perfect film at the perfect time for the #MeToo movement, proving that even though women have come so far, they still have a great distance to travel.
– In her inspiration of many young women, as the film so dutifully shows, the lasting impression of Ginsburg will never go one day again without being felt. This will undoubtedly give the film great replay value in terms of aging, that most films can’t pay for. Documentaries to me are usually a one-and-done kind of sit, but I see ‘RBG’ as being the cliff note for many future battles that our civilization will endure, going forward.
– While I can credit West and Cohen for their successful rendering of the topic subject, I cannot award them style points for anything groundbreaking or original in their visual presentation. Documentaries anymore provide a flare to compliment the hard-hitting details that virtually fly off of the page at you, and in this regard the movie was very plain and derivative for me, of everything else in the genre that came before it.
– My biggest fear coming into the film did come true, as the movie does divide our political cultures, instead of being the catalyst to unite them. It isn’t quite left-side propaganda, but it isn’t far off either, as much of the third act material takes valuable time to fling mud at any right-winger who has come in Ruth’s path of destruction. Being an independent voter myself, I am able to flesh out these instances of promoting, and to me it felt so very different from the woman Ruth evidently is. She’s never someone who uses a negative to reduce someone, but sadly the film is never as admirable with its clear-cut intention.