“RBG” is ostensibly a documentary about 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but it feels more like a love letter. Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen trace Ginsburg’s life and career from girlhood through marriage and law school to her current position as perhaps America’s least likely pop icon – the Notorious RBG, as she is affectionately nicknamed by a vast legion of youthful progressives.
The film makes clear that the soft-spoken, diminutive Ginsburg fought early and hard for gender equality in the courts in her own steadfastly clearsighted way. She’s the opposite of a late bloomer. The roll call of on-camera idolators, including Gloria Steinem, NPR’s Nina Totenberg, and Bill Clinton (who appointed her to the Supreme Court in 1993), is predictable, but we also hear praises from the likes of Orrin Hatch and a contingent of other conservatives. And then there is her famous friendship with the expansive Antonin Scalia, her legal and temperamental antithesis, which is a wonder to behold. It’s nice to know that, even in the upper reaches of today’s Washington, D.C., friendship can still eclipse ideology. Grade: B (Rated PG for some thematic elements and language.)