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Movie review: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a rock star in 'RBG' doc
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in "RBG," a Magnolia Pictures release. - photo by Josh Terry
RBG 3 stars Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Gloria Steinem, Nina Totenberg; PG (thematic elements and language); in general release

Julie Cohen and Betsy Wests documentary RBG examines the life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Its a thorough and insightful film, though your final takeaway will likely depend on whether your ideology differs from the judge.

From the first time we hear Ginsburg speak in RBG, quoting 19th-century abolitionist Sarah Grimke, the theme of her career is clear: I ask no favor for my sex, she says, all I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks.

Over the course of 98 minutes, RBG traces Ginsburgs life and career, often centering in on her passionate work on equal rights between genders.

Early on we learn a bit about Ginsburgs childhood in Brooklyn, and how her mother died when the future justice was a teenager. Ginsburgs mother counseled her to be a lady and be independent, and RBG makes it clear that those lessons stuck.

For a documentary so focused on a justice connected to womens rights, its interesting to see how much of RBG focuses on Ginsburgs relationship with her late husband, Marty, who she met at Cornell University in the 1950s. As the documentary follows through the different stages of her career at Harvard and then Columbia Law School, working equal rights cases in the 1970s and finally reaching the Supreme Court in 1993 RBG makes frequent stops along the way to illustrate how Martys health or the couples different professional opportunities provided challenges but not roadblocks to their marriage.

But while her marriage is a connecting thread, the meat of RBG follows through her involvement with different landmark cases, first arguing before the Supreme Court in 1973 and eventually tracing through several key cases she heard on the Supreme Court herself beginning in the 1990s, including a significant case involving the formerly all-male Virginia Military Institute.

Everything culminates in the creation of a kind of rock star persona for Ginsburg, who has been lovingly dubbed the Notorious RBG (referencing the 1990s rapper Notorious B.I.G.) for the diminutive octogenarians frequent dissentions to the courts majority rulings.

Its pretty clear that the people behind RBG agree with those dissentions, and political opponents to the liberal justice may be tempted to poke holes in the films narrative from time to time. But Cohen and West do a good job of bringing in a few dissenting voices of their own, including longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, and its especially amusing to see the films examination of Ginsburg's unexpected friendship with conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

The film also draws from other familiar faces including womens rights advocate Gloria Steinem and former President Bill Clinton in order to flesh out Ginsburgs portrait. And we hear plenty from the justice herself, which is helpful when the documentary inevitably asks her to comment on our current president, who she criticized publicly during the 2016 campaign.

Overall, RBG will be celebrated by audiences sympathetic to Ginsburgs ideology, but the film will still be interesting for those who have their own dissenting opinions.

RBG is rated PG for thematic elements and language; running time: 98 minutes.