If the success of “RBG” and “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” taught documentary distributors anything, it’s that audiences love hagiographies about beloved American public figures — the older the better. Like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Fred Rogers, Dr. Ruth Westheimer effected radical change in the most unassuming of packages. Perhaps less known to contemporary viewers, but no less influential, Westheimer is getting the biopic treatment with “Ask Dr. Ruth,” a new documentary about the popular sex therapist coming to Hulu in May.
Of course, Dr. Ruth is no stranger to television; she hosted at least five television shows for Lifetime throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, following the success of her radio show, “Sexually Speaking.” For audiences who recall hearing her German-accented sex advice on the radio or TV, Westheimer’s return to the screen will be laden with nostalgia. But the film also includes her lesser-known history, including the fact that Dr. Ruth survived the holocaust as a teenager, worked briefly for Planned Parenthood, and was an early advocate for LGBTQ rights and ally in the fight against AIDS.
The film follows the ebullient 90-year-old as she travels from speaking engagements to TV and radio appearances, and illustrates her childhood as an orphan of the Holocaust with storybook-like animations.
“Ask Dr. Ruth” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January to favorable reviews, with Vanity Fair calling it a contender for the Oscar nomination. It is directed by documentary filmmaker and producer Ryan White, whose seven-part true crime docuseries “The Keepers” premiered on Netflix in 2017.
Hulu will premiere “Ask Dr. Ruth” in theaters and online on May 10th.
Check out the trailer for “Ask Dr. Ruth,” including Dr. Ruth’s very concise explanation of doggy style, below.