This riveting, surprisingly touching documentary reveals how the quiet, intense Ginsburg became one the most iconic Supreme Court justices in American history. Although the movie begins with an audio montage of some of the hateful insults that have been lobbed against the outspoken progressive judge (only the second woman appointed to the High Court), the documentary is an engrossing tribute to the octogenarian justice's legacy. Those familiar with Ginsburg's professional accomplishments will be reminded of the many game-changing gender discrimination cases she undertook while at the ACLU. It's compelling to watch the plaintiffs in cases she either argued or presided over on the Supreme Court discuss their important victories (or, in the case of Lily Ledbetter, her loss) and hear their appreciation of and admiration for the tiny but fierce attorney and judge who supported their causes. Per the 19th-century abolitionist that Ginsburg quotes in the film, it's not that she nor the many women she represented wanted to be thought better than men, they simply wanted men to "remove their boots from our necks."
But RBG isn't limited to a case-by-case analysis of Ginsburg's contributions to gender equality in the public sphere. It's also a moving testimony to her private trials and triumphs. Foremost among them is her 53-year marriage to Marty Ginsburg, a highly successful Manhattan tax attorney who followed Ruth to D.C. when President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Circuit Court. The documentary, as fans of the picture book I Dissent will already know, shows how Marty supported and encouraged Ruth -- how he was always the one who cooked and reminded her to eat and sleep. (He was basically the funny, outspoken Ron to her studious, disciplined Hermione.) Ginsburg apparently appreciated humor in her "work husbands" as well, as evidenced by, among other things, her surprisingly close friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia's son explains how, on paper, the two justices seemed like opposites, but in real life they bonded over their love of opera and travel. Many documentaries about remarkable public figures fail to do them justice, but this is an unforgettable look at how a bookish girl from Brooklyn became the Notorious RBG.