RBG ***

Stellar doc about one of the most powerful and influential women in the United States unapologetically champions its protagonist, but the impact of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cannot be denied.

Is it worth $10? Yes  

When she was a child, Ruth Bader Ginsburg enjoyed playing with the boys, and shared their interests – she was as far from a “girly-girl” as one could imagine. Little did she know how indicative this would be of her future, in which she’d ascend to the (predominantly male) highest court in the land and earn a fierce reputation to boot.

In 97 minutes that fly by, “RBG” tells Ginsburg’s life story in a way that venerates her from the start, and it’s a credit to filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West that by the end we believe she deserves the accolades. The film is not trying to be objective – its sole focus is to champion a life and career well lived. So yes it shamelessly adores, but the facts are what they are, and Ginsburg made the facts a reality. What can be argued is her impact in a larger context, but that’s a debate for another time.

Ginsburg’s legal career is traced, from her being one of nine women accepted into Harvard Law School (out of 500 enrollees) in the mid ‘50s to her ultimate ascension to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1993. In between was a notable legal career in which she argued six cases in front of the Supreme Court (and won five). As the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, she focused on cases related to gender discrimination, and in doing so was a forerunner in tackling the equality issues still present today.

In addition to her professional accomplishments, Cohen and West also share trinkets from RBG’s personal life: Her two children and granddaughter are interviewed; we learn about her late husband, Marty; and her friendship with longtime Court adversary Antonin Scalia is discussed, as is her love of opera, among other personal details. Through it all, her extreme intelligence and ability to reason emerge as her strongest qualities as she navigates a career in a so-called “man’s world.”

Interviews with other notables, including Bill Clinton, who appointed her to the Court, also lend perspective to Ginsburg’s accomplishments. But what’s constantly striking is the subject herself. Now 85 years young, she’s small in size and nothing about her is physically imposing. And yet she’s always the smartest person in the room, able to see and comprehend things that others do not (or cannot) understand, and more importantly she is able to convey her arguments in convincing ways. Watching her is not just a lesson in the law, it’s a lesson in diplomacy and realizing how to bring others to your side.

The end of “RBG” chronicles Ginsburg’s recent health struggles and pop culture popularity, highlighted by her becoming known as the “Notorious RBG.” Darn right. She may shy away from the spotlight, but how appropriate that after years of hard work she begins to enjoy the reputation of a notably influential American.

Did you know?
In 1999, Ginsburg won the American Bar Association’s Thurgood Marshall award for her contributions to gender equality and civil rights. Source:

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