Before she was the second woman to become a Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) carved out a legal reputation fighting for gender equality. This drama depicts her first major victory questioning traditional roles. It was 1970, when a male caregiver is denied a tax deduction because, at the time, it was assumed a parental caregiver was female. It is the only case Ginsburg fought alongside her husband of 50+ years, Martin (Armie Hammer), who went on to become a brilliant tax lawyer.
“On The Basis Of Sex” recounts the “trials” and tribulations that Ruth Bader Ginsburg endured and overcame in order to become one of the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justices.
Ginsburg showed her strength and intelligence from the start of her academic career. While attending and excelling in her Harvard Law classes, her husband fell ill. While he recovered, she not only continued her classes and tended to her ailing husband, but also attended his advanced law classes for him. After graduating at the head of her class, she could not get hired as a lawyer simply because of her sex.
While her story is framed within the appellate case regarding a male caregiver – a case that becomes the precedent for future sex discrimination cases – this story is all Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Felicity Jones gives an excellent performance as RBG, showing her to be whip-smart but green, and laser-focused on gender equality. Unfortunately, the film lacks Ginsburg’s fiery spirit.
“On The Basis Of Sex” could have been a celebration of a woman who refused to wear the shackles of gender norms. However, this conventional film relegates an incredible woman to a predictable journey of enlightenment.
Depicting one of the steppingstone cases to cement Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy as a champion of human rights, “On the Basis of Sex” is a well-meaning look at her early days as a legal eagle. With an earnest but uneven first-ever screenplay written by her nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, the movie comes across as a workmanlike TV movie.
Of course, it’s still inspiring. Ginsburg was one of eight women at Harvard Law School in 1956, the sixth year of the august institution admitting women. The sexism is rampant at every juncture and is heavy-handed, even for the times. Sam Waterston portrays dean Erwin Griswold as a cutthroat misogynist.
What is good is the emphasis on the marriage of equal partners between Ginsburg and her husband of 56 years, Martin, who died in 2010. Both Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer are believable as the committed couple.
They are both sincere in the courtroom as well, but more was needed regarding the prep work before the Appellate Court scene – and do judges really act like this?
For a more in-depth look at the 85-year-old icon’s astonishing professional and personal life, the documentary “RBG” from earlier this year is a better source of information than this slick “inspired by true events” drama.