- 4 Jan 2019
By Beth Webb | Posted 2 Jan 2019
Though under the guise of a documentary format, RBG is an outright celebration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the female justice who in battling gender equality laws for decades has changed the landscape for women working in America today. Her work may not be recognised as much abroad, but to her fans she’s feminist royalty, described by young women onscreen with the sort of breathless enthusiasm usually reserved for Beyoncé.
We first meet Ginsburg in the present day lifting weights at the gym, her statement glasses paired with a sweater that reads “Super Diva!” in large font. She’s 85 years old. It’s a pointed introduction that establishes Ginsburg as a fighter with a sense of humour, necessary traits of a liberal woman working in a right-leaning Supreme Court.
Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West use Ginsburg’s cult status as a launching pad to delve into her rebellious past, stitching together interviews with talking heads like Gloria Steinem and Bill Clinton with archive footage of her championing landmark cases for equal rights during her earlier career as a litigator. In the present, they capture lighter moments in Ginsburg’s company, in one particularly heart-warming scene showing her Kate McKinnon’s Saturday Night Live impression of her for the first time.
These strands combined present a rounded study not only of Ginsburg’s legacy but of the perseverance of a woman who has survived cancer twice, graduated as one of nine women to 500 men in her Harvard law class, and supported her young family when her devoted husband Marty was himself diagnosed with cancer.
There are times when RBG becomes too cutesy, with present day Ginsburg framed as more of a Pixar character than a female justice. It’s through this rose-tinted lens however that we get a rousing take on a true pioneer, offering a love letter that couldn’t feel more timely.