fri 21/06/2024

RBG review - a compelling, restrained insight | reviews, news & interviews

RBG review - a compelling, restrained insight

RBG review - a compelling, restrained insight

Documentary offers a broad overview of America's most famous Justice

President Carter appointing Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the DC Court of Appeals

Very few could have predicted Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg becoming a cultural icon, least of all herself. A quiet, studious, first-generation American girl who broke down boundaries, not with force, but with a reasoned reproach and a calm demeanour.

From being one of the first women at Harvard Law School to sitting on the highest court in the land, her achievements always shouted louder than she did. So how did America’s millennial generation come to dub her the Notorious RBG? This new documentary, co-produced by CNN, sheds some light on the woman behind the memes.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was never “one of the girls”. According to childhood friends, she wouldn’t chat about the boys or the latest gossip. She was friendly, hardworking and quiet, but as everyone agrees, there’s no small talk. She says her mother taught her two things: to be a lady (never become overemotional), and to be independent (never rely on your husband). She soon realised that the United States was not supportive of these beliefs, and thus began a career in justice.

Despite her being in the top 10 per cent of her class, no law firms were interested in hiring a woman; to her disbelief, this wasn’t illegal. Spotting a correlation between the civil rights movement and women’s rights, she began representing cases to the Supreme Court, building a reputation as a rational and engaging orator, able to make privileged men understand what it’s like to be a second-class citizen.Ruth Bader Ginsberg in RBGThough she was never reliant on her husband’s career, RBG shows the wonderful supportive relationship Ruth shared with her spouse Martin. As some people point out, they were almost opposite in disposition – Martin the outgoing joker, Ruth the introverted thinker – but they were each other’s missing halves. A renowned finance lawyer in his own right, he realised that Ruth’s career was as (if not more) important than his own, not just for the family, but the entire country. They were the living proof that respect and equality benefits both genders.

“No small talk” not only describes RBG the woman, but also a film. It’s a documentary that doesn’t take the scenic route; everything is as straight laced as the Justice herself. Using primarily talking heads and archive footage, directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen chart a reverential and lineal biography of Ginsburg’s life and career. Despite an energetic and poppy opening that demonstrates her youth appeal, it’s a serviceable if somewhat unimaginative approach to storytelling.

That’s not to say RBG’s life needs embellishing – like one of her cases, the film builds a solid argument for her reputation as a trailblazer, making advancements one step at a time. As a lawyer, she undeniably changed the lives of women in America, as workers and people; and when it was time to hear lawsuits as a Justice, she ruled with the same openness and reason. In such divisive times, it makes the case for keeping your cool and occasionally working with those you disagree with.

As for her reputation as “notorious”, that’s a recent development. Her dissents (an opposing view to the Court’s ruling) have become battle cries to a generation that have seen the bench swing hard right. At times, there’s a caricature of RBG as a no-shit liberal grandma; perhaps her nuanced and bipartisan tone doesn’t sell as many t-shirts.

Still, as a role model there are few better and she has openly embraced her new-found fame. With a biopic expected next month (On the Basis of Sex starring Felicity Jones), RBG is an excellent reminder of why her reputation is earned. Perhaps her story deserved a bit more flair in filmmaking, but Ginsburg is proof that a measured approach often reaps the strongest results.

As a role model there are few better, and she has openly embraced her new-found fame


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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