THREE STARS Sex therapist, cultural icon, social commentator and America's most influential Granny.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer
It’s nothing more than coincidence that two of the most important women who have reshaped American society were called Ruth - Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Their methods were startlingly different - one worked through the institutional pillar of law, the other in the colosseum of popular entertainment - but it’s no coincidence that their tireless efforts have changed the lives of millions, and for the better.
“Live large,” says Dr Ruth, ironically for a woman who stands a mere 1.45m tall. On her 90th birthday, Ryan White compiled this love letter to America’s most shocking grannie as he followed the indefatigable sex therapist around New York to get a sense of what drives her. What we get is a sense of a woman utterly devoted to justice. Shaped by her escape from the Nazi’s and subsequent loss of family, Ruth found her voice in education. In the early 1980’s, radio found Ruth and it was a perfect coupling. She spoke her mind about sex, audiences lapped it up and in no time Dr Ruth was a household name.
ASK DR RUTH is a robust documentary that explores both Westheimer’s past and her work at the forefront of the sexual revolution. Her non partisan, non political and non judgemental position allowed her to talk freely on everything from the doggy position to abortion and AIDS. So she did, and people loved her for it. Who couldn’t love this charming, bubbly, giggly grandmother with a whip-sharp mind and unshakeable sense of decency?
White is clearly in love with his subject and might not present the most objective perspective, but any qualms about his focus are soon forgotten in light of the film’s thoroughness and willingness to enlighten and entertain. It’s an absolute joy to spend this time with Dr Ruth. “I have an obligation to live large, and make a dent in this world,” she once said. Like her namesake, she has succeeded brilliantly.