Not well known on this side of the pond but she should be and forthcoming feature film should put that right. A remarkable woman in every sense who has furthered the course of good law-making and human rights. Also a feminist icon. Not a 'worthy' documentary but an excellently made film that holds the attention .
“RBG” is a documentary film about the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice on the US Supreme Court. Here is some basic information about this film which premiered in 2018:
** Directors: Julie Cohen and Betsy West ** Available on DVD and Amazon Prime Video (2019) ** Run time: 98 minutes
Many persons are interviewed in the film. Archive footage is also used from time to time. I will not mention all names, because the list is too long. Here are some of the names (divided into three categories):
# 1. RBG AND HER FAMILY ** RBG – born 1933 ** Jane Ginsburg – daughter – born 1955 ** James Ginsburg – son – born 1965 ** Clara Spera – granddaughter
# 2. PLAINTIFFS IN SIGNIFICANT CASES ** Sharron Frontiero ** Lilly Ledbetter ** Stephen Wiesenfeld
# 3. OTHERS ** Bill Clinton – nominated RGB for the Supreme Court in 1993 ** Orrin Hatch – a politician – Republican ** Arthur R. Miller – a lawyer ** Gloria Steinem – women’s rights activist ** Nina Totenberg – a reporter (National Public Radio)
This film covers RBG’s life and career from the time when she is a young girl until the present day when she is more than 80 years old. There is information about her family and information about her professional life as a lawyer.
During a long life, RBG has been involved in numerous cases. For obvious reasons, only the most important cases are presented in this film. This is as it should be.
What do reviewers say about this biopic? Here are the results of three review aggregators:
** 71 per cent = Meta ** 76 per cent = IMDb ** 78 per cent = Rotten Tomatoes (the audience) ** 95 per cent = Rotten Tomatoes (the critics)
As you can see, the ratings are quite good. When you look at Rotten Tomatoes, you can see that there is a clear difference between the general audience and the professional critics. It seems the critics like this film more than the general audience.
In this case, I have to side with the critics. “RBG” is a great film. From the beginning to the end there is an incredible drive. The story of her life and her career is told with many details and in a fascinating way.
The film opens with a few derogatory statements about RBG. But when we get to the interviews, almost everything is positive. There is a good reason for this. As a lawyer, RBG has been involved in several cases where she supported and advanced the human rights of women and men. In short: she has done a good job.
However, she is not infallible. She is human. She can make a mistake. A faux pas. The film offers one example of this: in 2016 she made a negative comment about Donald Trump who was at the time a presidential candidate. Later she apologized for this. She said she should not have said anything about a political candidate.
While the film is great, it is not flawless. RBG made another faux pas in 2016, which is not included in the film. When US athlete Colin Kaepernick refused to stand while the national anthem was being played, RBG made a public comment describing his gesture as “dumb.” Later she apologized for this. She said she did not know why Colin (and other athletes) made this gesture. She said she should not have spoken on this issue.
This example is not included in the film! It is a shame!
Here is another flaw. This time not a faux pas, but a case in the Supreme Court where she seems to have voted against her own principles.
On the bench she represents a liberal point of view. She supports human rights. She supports gender equality. And in most cases, her voting reflects this point of view. However, there is at least one case where she seems to have voted against her own principles.
In Kelo v. City of New London she sided with the City of New London against Susette Kelo. This was in 2005. The court voted 5 to 4 in favour of the City of New London against Susette Kelo.
It is a case where we see the system against the ordinary person. We would expect RBG to vote for the ordinary person. But she voted for the system. If she had sided with Susette Kelo, the City of New London would have lost, because then the vote would have been 5 to 4 in favour of Susette Kelo.
** The case is covered in a book that was published in 2009: “Little Pink House” by Jeff Benedict.
** The case is covered in a movie that was released in 2017. The movie “Little Pink House” is based on the book from 2009.
The case is not mentioned in the film! It is a shame!
Here is another case which is not included in the film: Moritz versus the IRS, which took place 1970-1972. It was the first major case argued by RBG and the only case where she worked with her husband Martin Ginsburg (1932-2010). She covered constitutional issues, while he covered the tax aspects of the case. They won!
Why is this case not covered in the film? I think I know the answer. Because it plays a major role in the movie about RBG: “On the Basis of Sex,” which also premiered in 2018. Perhaps the people behind the film and the people behind the movie got together and talked about their projects. Perhaps they decided to divide the story between them: the Moritz case will be the movie, while all the other cases will be in in the documentary. A good idea.
As you can see, the film is not flawless. There are at least two flaws, but I have decided to regard them as minor. Why? Because “RBG” is a great film. I think it deserves a rating of five stars.
PS. For more information, see the following books:
** “Notorious RBG” by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (2015)
** “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life” by Jane Sherron de Hart (2018)
** “Dissenter on the Bench” by Victoria Ortiz (2019)