With calmer fanfare, Ask Dr. Ruth also opened last weekend. It is a documentary about Ruth Westheimer, Ph.D, who burst into the public spotlight as the sex therapist to the nation in 1981. Everyone knows the kind little lady who could speak frankly about the intimacy of sex. Yet, much like a member of the Avengers, Dr. Ruth is part superhero.
The documentary begins and ends in Dr. Ruth’s Washington Heights apartment in New York City. Approaching her 90th birthday, we see this busy woman going about her daily routine in the spotlight of public speaking engagements.She appears to be never alone.
With the dawning of the AIDS crisis, Dr. Ruth’s candid, but cute, discussions about sexuality helped remove social stigmas. Given her sense of humor, she was a regular guest on the late night talk shows and chatted with Johnny Carson, David Letterman and NBC radio announcers. But, behind the laughs was a darker story.
Karola (Dr. Ruth’s first name) was born into a Jewish family in Germany during WWII. At the age of 9 1/2, her parents were taken to a labor camp. She, and the neighborhood children of her age, were put on a train and sent to Switzerland.
On May 8, 1945, when the orphanage announces the end of World War II, Karola comes to the realization that she won’t see her family again. These scenes featuring Karola’s youth are presented with animation that is simple and haunting.
Much like Dr. Ruth’s public persona, overall, Ask Dr. Ruth is lighthearted and humorous. Her pain, much like her politics, is not for public consumption. However, Ask Dr. Ruth provides answers for one who wishes to achieve an authentic life.