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RBG Review - Notorious, Genuine, Four Stars

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RBG, from Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and CNN Films, presents a most notorious and hands down untold story of the rise of the cult movement behind the U.S. Supreme Court's most celebrated jurist, Honorable Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, RBG features a venerable list of who's who including Justice Ginsberg's late husband, Martin, children Jane and James Ginsberg and granddaughter Clara Spera.

RBG also features Gloria Steinem, Nina Totenberg, Lilly Ledbetter, former president Bill Clinton, Ted Olsen, Judge Harry Edwards, Senator Orrin Hatch, Eugene Scalia, the son of former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Bryant Johnson, her personal trainer, former clients from cases in the 1970's Sharron Frontiero and Stephen Wiesenfeld and Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik authors of "Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg."


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RBG begins with the pulsating rap beat of the Notorious: RBG, as the camera cuts to a diminutive elderly female, back to a filling auditorium of young, women, back to the lobby where the coeds are being interviewed and gushing with respect, enthusiastically and intellectually, explain why this 84-year-old female represents the women's movement greatest supporter and best bet for advancement.

Who, as they rap beat hits a repetitious overlap, who, you might say is filling auditoriums, with extended applause and standing ovations, selling millions of copies of any book authored by or about her? That, of course would be, the Notorious RBG, Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

RBG then moves back to the timeline of the life and times of Ms. Ginsberg. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. She explained education was important part of her upbringing and the idea even at a young age that she would be denied opportunities due to gender didn't seem to enter into her thought processes.

One of nine women admitted to Harvard Law School in 1956, Ginsberg was the first women to be a member of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. After her husband, whom she married in 1954, graduated and received an offer from a top New York Law firm, they moved to Manhattan and Ms. Ginsberg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she again was selected for the Columbia Law School review. She graduated tied for Valedictorian.

And she promptly became unemployed. For all the hard work and references from colleagues from the Harvard Law Review, who were all offered top spots at tony, white collar, law firms throughout the city who recounted in the documentary stepping out on her behalf to managing partners explaining all her accolades before her gender, to nods, notes and affirmations and would become ghost like after her gender was spoke.

Ms. Ginsberg, one of nine women to be accepted to Harvard, a member of two prestigious law review journals, tied for the top spot in her class, was unemployable due to her gender. It was 1959.

Her early career challenges are shocking and documented. RBG moves quickly through the information without a deeper exploration of the leverage power players used to secure her employment.

Sitting behind a desk and the cube life for the young Ginsberg was obviously not going to happen and possibility for the best as she began to teach at Rutgers University. Again a forerunner in the field, she didn't just teach law, she co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union which would propel her to the front side of the bench where the up and coming jurist took on cases that were destined to change law.

This cases are highlighted in RBG. Even for those who are not legally minded, Ginsberg is every women who has found a way, to build a platform to become a voice, to ensure her opinions and yes due to her profession, the opinion of the disenfranchised and the voiceless are heard.

Her major victories for Gender Equality, which has women and as we find out men also standing an cheering, are Reed v Reed (1971), Frontiero v Richardson (1973), Weinberger v Wisenfeld (1975), Duren v Missouri (1979), United States v Virginia (1996), Sessions v Morales-Santana (2017).

Her voice hasn't diminished as the court has changed and this also is explained as the opinion or makeup of the court shifts from conservative to liberal challenges present themselves to offer more scathing, blistering dissents which, with the advent of social media has created an icon of the seasoned Associate Justice.


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The documentary also offers access to her personal chambers and she is candid when she discusses her husband, Martin, who passed away in 2010, his health and their life, as she was the "serious" one and he who effectively used humor.

RBG is more than a documentary on an Associate Justice it is a statement to the milestones in gender equality and a reminder there are miles to go. Ginsberg is an icon, an example, a standard. She is impressive as a person, not just her encyclopedic knowledge and her grasp of the law.

Among her legion of fans I must admit, I am one. My fandom resulting from a challenge by the Associate Justice on a warm day in May, some twenty plus years ago, as she looked out over Washington Square, where graduates across New York University's entire body of schools gathered to hear the commencementspeaker, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as she delivered the remarks.

Poised and proud of my accomplishments I listened attentively waiting to hear a soundbite, a morsel that would stay with me. And she did not disappoint to this day I am reminded of that hour and the challenge she issued to New York University's class of 1995 to "pursue excellence" in all you do.

More than the legal and intellectual communities, RBG is a documentary for everyone. With miles left to go in the pursuit of equality, this documentary rises to the top. It is inspiring.

RBG opens everywhere May 4, 2018. See it.

 

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