“When she was growing up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s beloved mother Celia gave her two lessons to guide her through life: ‘Be a lady’ and ‘Be independent.’ That two-pronged approach appears to have influenced every aspect of the Supreme Court justice’s life, both personal and political. In Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s wide-ranging RBG, Ginsburg’s life—and its many lessons, both learned and taught—come to entertaining and energetic life. It’s a fist-pumping, crowd-pleasing documentary that makes one heck of a play to remind people of Ginsburg’s vitality and importance, now more than ever.
The film’s opening credits include a slew of slurs unleashed against the associate justice during her long tenure (Donald Trump has called her a ‘disgrace’). When Ginsburg finally appears on screen, she’s working out while wearing a bright purple sweatshirt bearing two words: ‘super diva.’ The message is clear: She’s tough as nails, and she couldn’t care less what the haters think. That’s only the half of it.
RBG serves as a compelling Ginsburg primer, and West and Cohen are understandably interested in driving home just how fully she fought back sexism at every stage of her professional life, from her experience at Harvard Law and her first steps into full-time work to her Supreme Court appointment.
Yet it’s the insights into her personal life that feel the most vital, including her bond with her granddaughter (also a Harvard grad) and her decidedly forward-thinking husband Marty, and even her unlikely friendship with fellow judge Antonin Scalia. RBG makes the case for Ginsburg as a hero, but for all aspects of her life, not just the splashy cases that help shape the United States.
But what might be most inspiring about Ginsburg is how she’s continued to hammer away at her dreams and her desires, even when buffeted back by forces she can’t control. Ginsburg’s evolution is the evolution of America, a story as necessary as ever, as America continues to slip backward, even as Ginsburg continues to push forward.” (Kate Erbland, Indiewire)
“Intimate without being obtrusive, RBG doesn’t exactly demystify the Supreme Court so much as it brings us closer to one of its greats.” (John Fink, The Film Stage)
“A documentary that, like its subject, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is eminently sober, well-mannered, highly intelligent, scrupulous and just a teeny-weeny bit reassuringly dull.” (Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter)