Monday, December 24, 2018

Movie with Abe: RBG

Directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West
Released May 4, 2018

There aren’t a lot of people who are known simply by their initials. While it does seem somewhat casual, it acknowledges a certain universality and recognizable nature that wouldn’t allow them to be confused with anyone else. Presidents come to mind, particularly FDR or JFK, though, in both of those cases, their legacies were cut short by their premature deaths while still serving in office. One person currently holding a high office has definitely gone much further than anyone expected, defying expectations throughout her entire life and earning her three-letter moniker.

RBG, whose full name is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is the second woman ever appointed to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Her incredible life is chronicled, from her start at Harvard Law School as one of just a few women in her class. Her close relationship with her husband Martin, who never treated her as an inferior but an equal partner in their marriage, was central to her success, but RBG achieved everything on her own merits, working as a law professor when no firm would hire her and making magnificent strides to roll back gender discrimination laws in the United States on the path to the high court.

This documentary opens on an energetic note, showing the eighty-five-year-old lifting weights as quotes from those who doubted her abilities are played. Her diminutive stature is used as a weapon throughout the story of her life, as people constantly underestimated her because of her size and her gender. She is described by friends who have known her for decades as much shier than Martin, far more extroverted only in recent years. The fanbase that has amassed itself around her now is especially wonderful, and seeing how she responds to that affection with reserved gratitude is endearing.

RBG’s reputation may now be larger-than-life, but this is a documentary that really gets to who she is as an individual. Watching as she laughs at Kate McKinnon’s parody of her on “Saturday Night Live” is sweet and entertaining, as she notes that it’s funny even if it doesn’t remind her at all of herself. Seeing footage of her and her ideological opposite, Justice Antonin Scalia, appearing together as true friends despite their differences is a wonderful remnant of a time where one party’s judicial nominee being confirmed 96-3 was actually possible. This is a winning documentary that paints a marvelous portrait of a fascinating and impactful figure in recent – and current – American history.


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