New from Al and Linda Lerner on Movies and Shakers: Ask Dr. Ruth

“Short people make the best lovers.” according to 4’ 7”, 90 year-old sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Director Ryan White exposes this energetic woman with personality to burn just by letting her talk which she does incessantly throughout this documentary. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, including references to every part of sexual function and anatomy. It’s even more surprising coming from her lips laced with that charming German accent. Dr. Ruth is a strong force to be reckoned with and you’ll see why when you follow her backstory.

Dr. Ruth is a holocaust survivor. White methodically chronicles Dr. Ruth’s life from childhood in Frankfurt, Germany. She was born Karola Siegel to Orthodox Jewish parents. You find out why family is so important to her and how her parents inadvertently exposed her to a book on sex when she was very young. But in 1941, at the age of 10, they sent her away by train with other children on the famous Kindertransport, to an orphanage in Switzerland to save them from the Nazis. Although she received long letters, (her father wrote in poetry), she tragically never saw her parents again. 

White intersperses beautiful animation to enhance the story of this young girl and what she went through physically and emotionally to deal with her lonely situation. Before it gets too sad or maudlin, White goes back to her present life in New York’s Washington Heights where she’s lived for decades, preferring to live among immigrants like herself rather than move to more posh surroundings. 

Trying to keep up with this nonagenarian is exhausting with her frenetic schedule meeting friends, neighbors and making media and personal appearances. She’s had 3 husbands, 2 children and has 4 grandchildren who think she is one good-time Omi (their name for Grandma). You hear about or meet them all. 

White goes back to the immense challenges she faced sailing from France to Israel as a young woman where she became a sniper in the Israeli army, and practically had her feet blown off in a terrorist bombing. She not only survived, but was able to dance again. 

Coming to New York with her then husband, she went back to school, learning English reading romance novels which probably gave her some useful information on her way to becoming a sex therapist. At Cornell Medical Center, the soon-to-be Dr. Ruth worked with prominent sex researcher Helen Singer Kaplan, got her doctorate and White shows how she was given a shot at radio hosting a Sunday midnight talk show answering listener questions about sex. White shows how that became the springboard to her successful career on TV and Radio and as a tantalizing guest on all the big celebrity talk shows. 

Coming to New York with her then husband, she went back to school, learning English reading romance novels which probably gave her some useful information on her way to becoming a sex therapist. At Cornell Medical Center, the soon-to-be Dr. Ruth worked with prominent sex researcher Helen Singer Kaplan, got her doctorate and White shows how she was given a shot at radio hosting a Sunday midnight talk show answering listener questions about sex. White shows how that became the springboard to her successful career on TV and Radio and as a tantalizing guest on all the big celebrity talk shows. When you see this effervescent woman, it’s hard to believe the tragedies she lived through. Dr. Ruth never forgets the sad parts of her life but her survival mechanism is enthusiasm, optimism, a wicked sense of humor and boundless energy. Dr. Ruth is more than a sex therapist. She’s never been afraid to share her advice. And our advice? Book an appointment to see this film. 

Magnolia Pictures     1 hour 40 minutes       Documentary

Check local listings. Now playing at Landmark Century Centre Cinema, Chicago. 

from Movies and Shakers http://bit.ly/2GYkOTX

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