RBG (2018)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):   BBBB.  

USA, 2018.  , .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , .  Music by .  Film Editing by

The second female Supreme Court justice appointed to the bench, has been influencing the course of American women’s lives from the time that witnessing the horrors of the HUAC hearings inspired her to apply to law school, first as one of only a handful of women at Harvard law before switching to Columbia when her husband’s work took them to New York.  Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West skillfully go through a number of landmark cases that Ginsburg served on throughout her illustrious career, the majority of which chipped away at the hard shell of a society determined to keep women away from the opportunities provided by a capitalist workplace.  She was appointed a judge in the appellate court under Carter, then later reached the Supreme Court during Clinton’s presidency despite a controversial view on abortion that would not fly in harder times, presiding on landmark cases such as the co-education of Virginia Military Institute.  Ginsburg’s first years as Associate Justice saw her occupying a comfortable political middle position between colleagues who tended to be further right or left than herself, but with the Bush presidency came new appointees who pushed Ginsburg further left, and a previously subdued and measured judge was suddenly becoming popular for a series of passionate dissenting votes (beginning with Bush v. Gore in 2000 and continuing until Hobby Lobby in 2014).  Her vocal opposition to what she felt was the Supreme Court frequently going against the idea of an America she had been fighting for her whole life has resulted in her becoming the beloved mascot of liberal politics and earning her the moniker of “Notorious R.B.G.”, but has also earned her a fair number of critics who for some reason are not given much time in this otherwise wholly entertaining film.  It’s understandable (and satisfying) that Cohen and West have made a film that avoids controversy and focuses on a hagiography of this very impressive figure in American history, but for a movie that begins with a series of bellowing voices calling her names (the first line in the movie is that she’s a witch), it would be fascinating to see the ways in which this uncompromising woman, who has done so much to highlight the existence of gender discrimination in a society that often refuses to admit its existence, pisses people off; if we did, the contrast with scenes of her making a cameo in the opera or describing how she codes her decorative collars depending on her vote would be made so much richer.

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Original Song (“I’ll Fight”); Best Documentary Feature


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