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Film Reviews New documentary Ask Dr. Ruth is everything you always wanted to know about sex, plus snacks

Ask Dr. Ruth chronicles the life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America's most famous sex therapist.

Mongrel media

  • Ask Dr. Ruth
  • Directed by Ryan White
  • Featuring Ruth Westheimer
  • Classification N/A
  • 100 minutes

rating

Director Ryan White’s documentary depicts Dr. Ruth as a lovable every-granny – if your grandmother was a celebrity sex therapist not shy around STIs, vibrators and porn.

The 90-year-old nibbles on sweets in the same modest Washington Heights apartment where she’s lived for 50 years, beats her grandkids at cards and force-feeds the director snacks, nagging him to call his family. The film traces Dr. Ruth’s unlikely rise as America’s de facto sex-ed teacher, with White combining deliciously cheesy eighties footage from Dr. Ruth’s heyday on the late-night TV circuit with more revelatory family archives.

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Less seamless is the introduction of animated sequences to transport viewers back to Dr. Ruth’s distressing childhood; at 10, she was orphaned in Switzerland, her parents killed in the Holocaust. Crucially, Ask Dr. Ruth shows us a renegade ahead of her time. As a single mother in the 1950s, she put education and career before her marriages (three of them), later juggling film cameos, shampoo commercials and a board-game franchise with lecture stints at Princeton and Yale, never shrinking back from talking through our most intimate interactions. Lovable, but tough.

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Ask Dr. Ruth opens May 17 in Toronto and Vancouver.

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