It doesn’t sound like the most exciting Saturday night, to go out and catch a documentary about an 84-year-old. But that’s what I did. I headed over to the Angelika Film Center, to see a documentary on Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And while I was expecting a law story, it was a love story that snuck up on me. It was an interesting story of two lawyers in love (that sounds like a Jackson Browne song). Since I didn’t know a thing about her husband, it was interesting to find this stuff out. Now, that doesn’t mean this is a great documentary. It mostly lionized RBG, and most of what it covered can be found on Wikipedia. The three things I felt this documentary needed was…1) people that disagreed with her, although we did get a few good clips with Orrin Hatch; 2) information about her 13 years as a federal appellate court judge, which were merely glossed over. Perhaps they could’ve shortened the work-out we saw her doing, or the many times we’re told she’s a bad cook; 3) more about her negative comments after the election of Donald Trump.
Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s documentary just doesn’t dig deep enough, and it’s not the best produced documentary; but it’s still surprisingly entertaining.
Bill Clinton shows up to talk about interviewing Ginsburg, and within 15 minutes knowing he was going to appoint her. Gloria Steinem has some kind words, although it would’ve been great to hear more from her; especially when you watch this and realize just how much Ginsburg did for the women’s movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The movie has moments of levity. We see RBG falling asleep at the State of the Union address. We get to see one of the rare clips of her laughing — while watching Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon impersonate her.
Watching as RBG fights for gender equality in the courtroom (while others were out marching), it’s crazy to find out how hard she was also working in her personal life. She attended Harvard law when very few women did, and was at the top of her class. She married her classmate Marty Ginsburg, and they had a baby. When the baby was only 14-months old, Marty got cancer. Ginsburg took care of him through multiple surgeries and radiation, all the while caring for a baby, attending school, and helping her husband with the school work he was missing. Once he recovered, he helped and supported her during her endeavors, never once feeling threatened by her intelligence and success. Success that didn’t come easy, since many law firms at the time didn’t hire women.
After Marty had a successful practice as one of the top tax lawyers in New York, he relocated to D.C. for her.
We got to hear from some of the plaintiffs in a few cases RBG won. There was Sharron Frontiero, an Air Force lieutenant who wanted the same housing benefits the male officers received. There was also a guy whose wife died soon after childbirth. He applied for social security, which a woman would receive, but he didn’t. In a shrewd movie, RBG took the case, and it made it all the way to the Supreme Court. And when she got named to the Supreme Court 20 years later, and was hearing her first case involving a female that was discriminated against…your eyes will fill with tears of joy at how her life turned out.
Of course, her friendship with Justice Scalia was covered. It’s just a shame that it was all a bit superficial. This is one of the most intelligent legal minds that helped shape many laws, and instead of delving into those things, we served a montage of memes comparing her to rapper Notorious B.I.G.
It was all entertaining enough to recommend, though.
3 stars out of 5.