An intimate portrait of an unlikely rock star: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. With unprecedented access, the filmmakers explore how her early legal battles changed the world for women.
Like many Brits, I had only a vague idea of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy. I knew that she was nominated by President Carter to the US Court of Appeals in 1980, and then to the Supreme Court by Bill Clinton in 1993. That she’s the court’s second longest-serving justice, just behind Clarence Thomas. That she’s been at the forefront of the women’s rights movement in America. That she is, to put it bluntly, a Very Big Deal.
Now, thanks to the revelatory RBG, I finally get why so many people think Ginsburg is an absolute f**king rockstar, too.
RBG opens with our heroine in the middle of a workout. Wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words ‘SUPER DIVA’, she lifts weights, planks and does a series of chest presses in quick succession. As her trainer wryly notes, “she’s like a machine.”
Painstakingly researched, Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s RBG – a brilliant tapestry of interviews, public appearances and archival material – takes us back to Ginsburg’s early days, when she was one of nine women in a Harvard Law School class of 500. After graduation no New York law firm would hire her – or any other woman, for that matter. But like the absolute f**king rockstar that she is, Ginsburg was inspired by this brushoff to prove that sex discrimination was every bit as real and unjust as racial discrimination – and fight her way to the very top to put an end to both.
In this era of #MeToo and Donald Trump, this moving film – which celebrates feminism, activism and the power of the dissenting voice – feels all the more relevant. More importantly, though, it sheds light on the tiny, tough and playful 85-year-old whose name has become synonymous with the word “NOTORIOUS” (and, less positively, with “demon,” “devil” and “threat to America” by right-wing detractors). As such, we get to see the tiny, tough and playful 85-year-old behind the legend status – and, for once, we feel all the more inspired for looking behind the curtain. With that in mind, I recommend watching this with the women you love most.
Fair warning, though: it will make you want to smash the patriarchy in a very big way.
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Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
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