Review: Hulu and Magnolia Pictures' 'Ask Dr. Ruth' is Poignant and Funny

Dr. Ruth Westheimer


In Ryan White’s documentary on America’s most prominent sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the director – known for his Netflix series The Keepers and HBO’s The Case Against 8 – paints a gorgeous portrait of an always positive woman’s pain and humor with intricate, nuanced brushstrokes. The Hulu network and Magnolia Pictures’ film, Ask Dr. Ruth, opens in theaters nationally on May 3, before becoming available exclusively on Hulu, June 1.

Good-natured about the ribbing she’s received from her still-thick German accent and the frank manner in which she discusses sexual activity, the woman America got to know first through her 1980 radio show, Sexually Speaking, lives with the horrors of the Holocaust. In Ask Dr. Ruth, Westheimer is as forthright in her discussion of her parents – German-Jews captured by the Nazis and killed at Auschwitz – and the pain that’s followed, as she is chatting about the functions of human sexuality.

Westheimer reflects on being one of the first people to say ‘clitoris’ on television, and talks about her role as an activist trailblazer in regards to feminism (her fight for women’s bodies and abortion rights) and the LGBTQ community (important lessons on HIV/AIDS at a time of fearmongering in the 1980s). Even as she discusses serious topics with her familiar smile and giggle, she is quick to tell her director White that he is asking stupid questions.

Coming up on her 90th birthday, Ask. Dr. Ruth isn’t only a joy to behold as a living filmic document (stay past the ending, too, it's funnier than Deadpool's notoriously hilarious end credits). Like the recent spate of documentaries and narratives on Mr. Rogers, there is a sense of reminiscence about the genuinely more meaningful (and well-meaning) media figures of our past, friends more important to our lives than the Instagram/Twitter/YouTube talking heads of our present.

Photo courtesy of Donna Baum Promotions Group

Posted on Friday, May 3, 2019