On Netflix: Knock Down the House
Directed by Rachel Lears
Director Rachel Lears hit the jackpot when one of the four female candidates she was trailing for her documentary turned out to be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, already known to the world as AOC.
Knock Down the House follows AOC, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin on their primary campaign journeys. They are all underdogs and untested candidates running against incumbents whom they are told over and over again that they will never beat. Three out of these four women do not win—but AOC does, and changes the world.
Unsurprisingly, the film takes a strong focus on AOC, trailing her as she psychs herself up for debates. As we get to know her, we get to see why she is such a phenom: her authenticity. Her desire for change is palpable. She’s gonna be a huge star, and this documentary really makes you feel like you got in on the ground floor of a political revolution. (Melissa Silverstein)
Click here to read the Ms. review of Knock Down the House. Click here to read Women and Hollywood’s interview with Rachel Lears.
Knock Down the House will open in select theaters and launch on Netflix May 1. Find screening info here.
In Theaters: Ask Dr. Ruth
If you didn’t already love Dr. Ruth Westheimer, you will after seeing this documentary.
When you watch Ask Dr. Ruth, you feel as if you’re hanging out with your most bubbly, self-confident and outspoken friend. That said friend happens to be a 90-year-old sex therapist just makes the experience that much more delightful.
As active as ever—forgive the pun, but she’d surely approve of it—Ruth is still writing books, giving candid interviews and speaking up about the issues the ever-Puritan American mainstream is too afraid to acknowledge. She’s still warm, empathetic and non-judgmental, as well as an an ally to pro-choice, LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS causes.
Ryan White’s Sundance doc isn’t entirely an upbeat romp, however. Ask Dr. Ruth sees the protagonist, who is Jewish, opening up about her childhood and family. Born in Germany in 1928, she was sent to Switzerland once the Nazis took power, when she was 10. Her parents and grandmother died in the Holocaust. While she never betrays her emotions about her background, Ruth does point out that her work—her steadfast belief that human connection is beautiful, natural and something everyone deserves—may be a result of the tragedy she survived as a young woman.
Whether you grew up listening to Dr. Ruth’s advice or are just being introduced to the woman who embraced sex positivity before that was even a thing, Ask Dr. Ruth is well worth your time. At turns funny, touching and heartbreaking, the doc reminds us that good, consensual sex isn’t a political issue. It’s a right for everyone. (Rachel Montpelier)
Ask Dr. Ruth hits theaters May 3. It will launch on Hulu June 1. Find screening info here.
On HBO: At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal
Directed by Erin Lee Carr
“How much is a little girl worth?” asks Rachael Denhollander in At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal.
Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse, inspiring hundreds of other women to come forward with their own horror stories about their trusted physician and friend. Erin Lee Carr’s HBO documentary sees survivors speaking out, both in the courtroom and for intimate one-on-one interviews. The feature also explores how the system enabled Nassar to exploit and abuse his patients for more than three decades.
Given its subject matter, it’s no surprise that At the Heart of Gold is a difficult watch at times. As disturbing as the doc is, it’s also incredibly inspiring. Carr highlights the gymnasts’ awe-inspiring strength, both as athletes and as people. The doc’s most powerful moments come when the women take the stand to confront their abuser and speak their truths. (Laura Berger)
At the Heart of Gold will air on HBO May 3 at 8 p.m. ET. It will subsequently be available on HBO GO and HBO NOW.