Holocaust survivor and legendary sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer gets introduced to new audiences by way of Ask. Dr. Ruth.
Before becoming a legendary sex therapist, Ruth Westheimer barely escaped the Holocaust. She would eventually relocate to Israel before making her way to New York. The rest as we know is history. Everything would change in 1980. This is when Westheimer would start her radio show, Sexually Speaking. While the radio show would come to an end in 1990, Westheimer would make numerous television appearances.
We do get a few expanded news clips–one featuring an interview with late husband Manfred “Fred” Westheimer. Mostly, the archival footage is mainly limited to a montage. The montages only serve to reinforce the sex therapist’s fame. In viewing the film, it makes me want to find the Seinfeld episode that Westheimer appears in. This is just one of many appearances though. When Westheimer finally broke through to fame, gone were the days of going unnoticed on the subway. Her career would be at the point in which she could be driven wherever she wanted to go.
However, there’s more to her life than just being a sex therapist. There’s her past–one that saw both parents die at the hands of the Nazis. It’s emotional to see her parents’ letters being read while watching the film. This comes in knowing that the day will come when the letters stop. The film’s release comes on the weekend following Yom HaShoah–the Holocaust Remembrance Day in the Jewish calendar. Yet who is to say what Westheimer’s life would look like if all these things don’t happen? The film as a whole puts her in a new light.
If these documentaries are a new trend, call me a fan. Last year, brought us Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Sundance saw the premiere of not only Ask Dr. Ruth but also Mike Wallace Is Here. TV appearances only show one side of these people. The documentaries allow for further insight into their lives. For example, Dr. Ruth shares an anecdote of the night in which she would lose her virginity. This would come at the age of 17 on a haystack in what was then Brtish-controlled Mandatory Palestine. Oh yeah, she didn’t use any protection! I guess I should not have been surprised but it caught me off guard.
I have my own anecdote to share about Dr. Ruth. When the film held its world premiere at Sundance, the Shabbat Tent Lounge would host the legendary woman during Shabbas dinner. It’s one of those experiences that I refer to as being once-in-a-lifetime. All of this being said–while the documentary is sad at times, Ask. Dr. Ruth is a fun and entertaining tribute to the sex therapist.
DIRECTOR: Ryan White
FEATURING: Dr. Ruth Westheimer