Directors: Julie Cohen and Betsy West
Cast: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Jane Ginsburg, and Bill Clinton
For Mother’s Day this year, I gave my mom the greatest gift one can give: a night out with me! Of course, a night out with me means the movies will be involved. But what to see? The Cineplex is just bursting with options this time of year from tent pole mega blockbusters to sleeper studio genre pieces, but my mom, the ever-bleeding-heart liberal, says, “Is the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary playing anywhere around here?” And yes, it was. So onward we walked, past the Deadpools and Oceans, past the Solos and Incredibles, past the Jurassic Parks and Avengers, into the tiny auxiliary theater with folding chairs and a draped curtain surrounding an 80” screen, as it should be. This is one of several documentaries out right now making a splash, and I hope the trend continues.
When the lights dimmed, my eyes were greeted to the petite, wiry Ginsburg in the midst of a pretty intense physical training session, a workout routine she performs regularly and one that she has made available to the public courtesy of her trainer, Bryant Johnson. The point being, this tiny, frail-looking woman is tougher than you think.
Ginsburg, or “The Notorious RBG” as she’s come to be known, is just the documentary subject we need right now. Whether that’s for political reasons, for women’s empowerment reasons, or simply because she’s an interesting person doing an interesting job, her life warrants our attention.
The quote, “I ask no favor of my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks,” bookends the film. This quote, attributed to abolitionist, Sarah Grimké and made by Ginsburg in her first argument before the Supreme Court in 1973, perfectly reflects the attitude of RBG and its subject. This is a woman whose career was made removing the proverbial foot of the powerful off of the necks of the oppressed.
The documentary is quite linear, and nicely arranges the details of Ginsburg’s life beginning with her childhood and spanning her legal career to the present. Of course, much time is spent exploring Ginsburg’s cases and her ascension to the Court (and her love for opera), but the high points of the film for me are the scenes with her first love and husband, Martin. Their relationship is one for the history books, not that there’s anything about Ruth Bader Ginsburg that is not for the history books.
Political leanings aside, this is an inspirational film that champions ambition, hard work, and love. At the conclusion of RBG, my mom looked at me and said, “Boy, have I wasted a lot of time.” And I can’t think of a better sentiment for this film to leave us with – a desire to enjoy life, pursue happiness, and actively participate in our society. A
RBG is rated PG and has a running time of 1 hour and 38 minutes.