RBG

RBG

2018, PG, 96 min. Directed by Betsy West, Julie Cohen.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., May 4, 2018

An improbable pop culture darling, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg is having a moment, going on five years now. It kicked off with 2013’s Notorious R.B.G. Tumblr and trickle-down meme that was then expanded to book length in 2015 (surely I’m not alone in having to explain the Biggie reference to Ma in advance of her book club meeting?) and culminating in this documentary release so breathlessly anticipated that the Drafthouse, that strict enforcer of a monkish quiet in the theatre, is hosting “rowdy” screenings so RBG fans can whoop and holler in honor of their fave Supreme Court justice. Considering pop culture usually lands on a less deserving object of obsession – some YouTube star, or whatever flavor Kardashian we’re licking this month – it’s a welcome treat to collectively cheer on a feminist icon. And if you’re going to canonize someone, you might as well do it while they’re still alive and can enjoy it.

Ginsburg’s health is of course a topic of interest, and considerable nail-biting, as the diminutive judge, a two-time cancer survivor, nears her 90s and progressives pray with a born-again’s zeal that she can ride out Trump’s presidency, thus avoiding a second conservative-appointed justice. Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s documentary portrait takes pains right away to show off Ginsburg’s fitness routine (lady can hold a plank like nobody’s business), before settling into the familiar pacings of a biographical survey. By threading together the audio from past speeches, testimony from her 1993 confirmation hearings, and sit-down interviews with the subject herself, the filmmakers cleverly give the impression of Ginsburg narrating her own story. That story courses from her Brooklyn beginnings and touching romance with husband Martin Ginsburg (coming soon in a dramatic film starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer) to her trailblazing as a female law student and her many legal victories. Talking heads – including NPR’s Nina Totenberg, Gloria Steinem, Bill Clinton, and Ginsburg’s own family – chime in, too, but they all stick to roughly the same script, with personal observations about Ginsburg’s tenacity and self-seriousness, her love of opera, and her advancement of equal rights.

The film also devotes time to Ginsburg’s more recent legacy as the author of numerous dissenting opinions, a byproduct of the court’s tilt toward the right. Dissent – or a remotely critical eye – doesn’t have any place in RBG; this is entirely admiring doc. An incomplete one, too: A brisk 96 minutes, RBG had room for a more probing look at Ginsburg’s judicial philosophy and impact on the court. Ginsburg’s contributions are substantial; this peppy portrait feels a little lightweight next to her stature.

Editor's note: An earlier version of the headline for this review incorrectly described Justice Ginsburg as the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court. That honor went to Sandra Day O'Connor.

Showtimes

AFS Cinema

6406 N. I-35 #3100, 512/686-3823, www.austinfilm.org/cinema

Wed., May 23

4:00, 6:30, 9:00
digital 4:00, 6:30, 9:00

Thu., May 24

4:30, 5:15
digital 4:30, 5:15

Fri., May 25

5:00
digital 5:00

Sat., May 26

3:15, 7:45
digital 3:15, 7:45

Sun., May 27

2:30
digital 2:30

Mon., May 28

4:45
digital 4:45

Tue., May 29

5:15
digital 5:15

Wed., May 23

12:40, 3:30, 6:20, 9:00

Thu., May 24

2:15, 5:05, 6:45, 9:25

Fri., May 25

12:00, 3:50, 7:40, 9:50

Sat., May 26

10:30am, 1:10, 3:55, 6:35, 9:20

Sun., May 27

10:30am, 1:10, 3:55, 6:35, 9:20

Mon., May 28

10:10am, 12:50, 3:35, 6:35, 9:20

Tue., May 29

3:50, 6:30, 9:15
AFA 1:05

Arbor Cinema @ Great Hills

9828 Great Hills Trail, 512/231-9742

Discounts daily before 6pm.

Wed., May 23

CC 1:00, 3:30, 7:30, 9:55

Thu., May 24

CC 1:00, 3:30, 7:30, 9:55

Fri., May 25

CC 12:40, 3:20, 7:10, 9:45

Sat., May 26

CC 12:40, 3:20, 7:10, 9:45

Sun., May 27

CC 12:40, 3:20, 7:10, 9:45

Mon., May 28

CC 12:40, 3:20, 7:10, 9:45

Tue., May 29

CC 12:40, 3:20, 7:10, 9:45

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Wed., May 23

AMC Independent;Recliners;Reserved Seating 2:30
recliners, reserved seating 2:30

Wed., May 23

digital 12:45
digital, luxury lounger 12:45

Fri., May 25

digital 9:35am

Sat., May 26

digital 9:35am

Sun., May 27

digital 9:35am

Mon., May 28

digital 9:35am

Tue., May 29

digital 9:35am

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Wed., May 23

11:00am, 1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:35, 9:30

Thu., May 24

11:00am, 1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:35, 9:10

Fri., May 25

10:50am, 12:25, 2:15, 4:20, 6:25, 8:30

Sat., May 26

10:50am, 12:25, 2:15, 4:20, 6:25, 8:30

Sun., May 27

10:50am, 12:25, 2:15, 4:20, 6:25, 8:30

Mon., May 28

10:50am, 12:25, 2:15, 4:20, 6:25, 8:30

Tue., May 29

10:50am, 12:25, 2:15, 4:20, 6:25, 8:30

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Films
Book Club
Life, love, laughter, and literature for a classic quartet of actresses.

Matthew Monagle, May 18, 2018

Anything
True love overcomes convention in this stylish, earnest romance.

Marjorie Baumgarten, May 18, 2018

More by Kimberley Jones
The Early Voting Numbers Are in for the Primary Run-offs
The Early Voting Numbers Are in for the Primary Run-offs
Early returns put Perri, Oliver neck and neck

May 22, 2018

Ramen Heads
What's cooking in the world's greatest ramen shops?

April 13, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

RBG, Betsy West, Julie Cohen

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle