Screen Savor: The notorious RBG

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Justice Ginsburg (right) and Jimmy Carter shaking hands, c. 1980 in RBG, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

As a subject of entertainment, the US Supreme Court has made its way into novels, TV series and movies. With Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s informative Ruth Bader Ginsburg doc, “RBG” (Magnolia), a Supreme Court Justice has become the central focus.

Ginsburg, the 84-year-old “liberal hero” of the court has made putting women on the same plane as men one of her life’s missions. A Brooklynite, Ginsburg’s strict mother (who died when Ginsburg was 17), imparted two valuable pieces of advice to her daughter -- be a lady and be independent.

Ginsburg’s achievements, personal and professional, are of the highest order. She became a lawyer when few women did. She was one of nine women Harvard Law school in the mid-1950s, transferring to Columbia Law School and receiving her B.L. in 1959. She did all of this as a wife (to Marty Ginsburg, whom she met at 18) and mother to a 14-month-old child.

“RBG”’s timeline moves from the present to the recent past and the distant past. Included among her many feats are her 1993 Supreme Court hearing confirmation, her unlikely friendship with the late Antonin Scalia, her brilliant strategies and preparedness, and her consuming love of the law. Most of all, “RBG” highlights Ginsburg’s fights against injustices and gender discriminations by showing that gender-based discrimination exists and treating gender discrimination the same as race discrimination, leading to her ultimate goal of equality and civil rights for all.

Interwoven in the story of opera-loving cancer survivor Ginsburg’s accomplishments, is the timeless love story of Ruth (described as “recessive”) and “unreservedly” supportive Marty (described as “gregarious”) and the family they started. In addition to Justice Ginsburg herself, other interview subjects include her daughter Jane and son James, granddaughter Clara (also a lawyer), Gloria Steinem, Notorious RBG authors Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, lawyers Ted Olson and Arthur Miller, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and others. Cohen and West have done a marvelous job of assembling an honest portrait of Ginsburg that is as informative as it is entertaining.

Notorious or not, Ruth Bader Ginsburg rules. Rating: A-


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