A melo­dra­matic mess, and a judge fight­ing for change

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - FILM ANNE JOSEPH Life It­self and RBG are re­leased to­day

Life It­self (15) ★★✩✩✩

THE CEN­TRAL mes­sage of this com­plex, con­fus­ing, multi-char­ac­ter, multi-gen­er­a­tional melo­drama is based on a char­ac­ter’s un­der­grad­u­ate lit­er­ary the­sis: that life it­self is the ul­ti­mate un­re­li­able nar­ra­tor. Writ­ten and di­rected by Dan Fo­gel­man, the cre­ator of Emmy nom­i­nated TV se­ries, This is Us, Life It­self is less about life and more about care­fully plot­ted deaths. Tragedy oc­curs on an unimag­in­able scale: sui­cide, ter­mi­nal ill­ness, nu­mer­ous ac­ci­den­tal road deaths and child mo­lesta­tion — all within a saga where chance events con­nect strangers across gen­er­a­tions and con­ti­nents.

Struc­turally di­vided into five parts, the cen­tral fo­cus is young New York cou­ple, Will (Os­car Isaac) and Abbey (Olivia Wilde) and their daugh­ter, Dy­lan (Olivia Cooke). Suf­fice to say, trau­matic loss oc­curs on mul­ti­ple lev­els and then, sud­denly, the me­an­der­ing story moves to Spain. Here, an­oth- er fam­ily unit faces dif­fi­cult chal­lenges and more un­for­tu­nate events un­fold. But once Ro­drigo (Alex Mon­ner), the son, moves to study at NYU, it tran­spires that one in­ci­dent links him with an­other char­ac­ter in an un­ex­pected, al­beit rather sen­ti­men­tal, way.

The strong cast, which in­cludes An­nette Ben­ing, An­to­nio Ban­deras and Mandy Patinkin do their best but are wasted on a weak script and mud­dled plot. Fo­gel­man should stick to sac­cha­rine TV.

RBG (PG) ★★★★✩

SHE MAY be very tiny in stature but this in­spir­ing and af­fec­tion­ate doc­u­men­tary nar­rates the out­sized in­flu­ence, achieve­ments and legacy of 85-year-old lib­eral US Supreme Court Jus­tice and un­ex­pected pop cul­tural icon, Ruth Bader Gins­burg.

De­scribed by Bill Clin­ton (who ap­pointed her to the SC in 1993) as a pi­o­neer­ing women’s ad­vo­cate, di­rec­tors Julie Co­hen and Betsy West ex­plore Gins­burg’s life and work through archival footage, in­ter­views with fam­ily, friends and col­leagues and Gins­burg her­self.

A woman of renowned re­serve, Gins­burg’s ca­reer has been de­fined by her fierce in­tel­lect as well as a strong de­ter­mi­na­tion to use the law as an in­stru­ment of change. Her own ex­pe­ri­ence of dis­crim­i­na­tion would, in many ways, de­fine her work. She be­came a lawyer in 1950s — a time when few women were en­cour­aged to do so: her gen­der meant that no New York law firm would give her a job. In 1970s, Gins­burg acted in land­mark cases — fight­ing for equal­ity and chal­leng­ing gen­der-based dis­crim­i­na­tion for both women and men.

At times, the film­mak­ers take a light-heated ap­proach but this does not de­tract from their abil­ity to pro­vide a thor­ough por­trait. In ad­di­tion to chart­ing Gins­burg’s pro­fes­sional con­tri­bu­tions, the film af­fect­ingly chron­i­cles RBG’s other great love — that of her hus­band, Marty Gins­burg, also a lawyer, who con­sis­tently sup­ported and cham­pi­oned his wife in her ca­reer.

Gins­burg’s com­mit­ment re­mains undi­min­ished and she says that she in­tends to serve un­til the age of 90. RBG was made prior to Brett Ka­vanaugh’s con­tro­ver­sial nom­i­na­tion and with the Court’s in­creas­ing politi­ci­sa­tion, for many, her voice and dis­sent­ing opin­ions are of grow­ing im­por­tance and her con­tin­u­ing pres­ence es­sen­tial.


Os­car Isaac, Olivia Wilde and Mandy Patinkin in Life It­self

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