- Review by Alison Traynor
RBG, Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary about Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is a compelling and intimate portrait of a truly incredible woman. With extensive interviews from Bader Ginsburg herself, as well as from her family members, friends and colleagues, the film builds a nuanced and insightful profile, which considers both her professional and personal life. Archive footage, including various videos of her deceased husband Martin speaking with pride of his wife’s achievements adds to its poignancy. It is certainly a tear jerker at points, yet it left me with a true feeling of hope. This is exactly the type of documentary that we need in these times of intense political turmoil.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, at eighty-five years old, has become a symbol for justice and equality. This is quite understandable, yet it is commendable that the documentary explores her as a person rather than as just a perpetrator of a certain ideology. It is the perfect antidote for excessive dogmatism but it simultaneously refuses to downplay her vital role in the world of justice and politics. She may be a feminist icon but she is certainly not a typical activist figure, which makes her story unique and fascinating. While West and Cohen do a very satisfactory job through their direction, Bader Ginsburg’s tale would have been captivating told by anybody.
Through her keen intelligence and determination, she took on the system from within. The odds were always against her, yet she still succeeded. Shy and serious, she did not come from a particularly wealthy family. She was born in an era where women were second class citizens. She had two children at a young age and her husband developed cancer when they were both in college. None of these factors stopped her from pursuing her career and helping others in doing so. Gender inequality would be a much more pervasive force than it is today if it had not been for Bader Ginsburg’s talent and passion.
Voice recordings from her courtroom speeches feature throughout, and they are a wonderful touch. Her writing is eloquent and accessible which is key to understanding her and her intentions. Sadly, we can't all be as inspiring as the woman who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which is exactly why this documentary is so vital.