Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.

MOVIE REVIEW: Biopic pays minor tribute to a major woman

ON THE BASIS OF SEX (M)

 

Rating: Three stars (3 out of 5)

 

Director: Mimi Leder (Deep Impact)

 

Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Cailee Spaeny.

 

Ruth, justice and the American way

 

 

One of the best docos of last year (and the current fave to win the next Oscar in that category) was RBG, a fascinating portrait of crusading US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

By comparison, this feature biopic treatment accorded her by On the Basis of Sex - focusing purely on Ginsburg’s formative years as a lawyer, wife and mother - does not leave the same lasting impression worthy of such an influential and inspirational figure.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.

This is not to say the movie is without merit. It just could have done so much more to make Ginsburg matter (particularly to non-American viewers unaware of her imposing stature in the US, where she is still active on the highest bench in the land).

Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) plays a young, hungry and motivated Ginsburg, who graduates top of her class at Columbia Law School in the late 1950s.

During her studies, Ginsburg and her fellow female aspirants were routinely asked why they should be taking an academic slot that could have gone to a male.

Having made it through an education system that was hardly encouraging of her intellect, Ginsburg had every right to think her spectacular results might open some doors to her in the real world.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.

It was not to be so. Incredibly, Ginsburg was turned down for countless jobs with law firms big and small, purely on grounds of her gender.

Meanwhile, lesser-qualified male rivals walked through every door opened to them, as if it was their sacred right to do so.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruther Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.
Felicity Jones stars as Ruther Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.

After a decade of grinding against this prejudice comes the landmark case which puts Ginsburg on the map: a dispute which sees her acting on behalf of a man who has suffered his own form of gender discrimination.

Using the insightful counsel of her husband Martin (Armie Hammer), also a lawyer, and drawing motivation from her headstrong teenage daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny), Ruth eventually breaks down a longstanding wall from an angle no-once could have predicted.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.
Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in ON THE BASIS OF SEX, directed by Mimi Leder. In cinemas February 7, 2019. An Entertainment One Films release.

This is definitely a movie with its heart in the right place. However, it is also a movie that perhaps luxuriates too comfily in the knowledge that no-one in their right mind will be siding against what it has to say.

A woman as complex, commanding and committed to arguing for change such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg perhaps warranted a movie prepared to reflect those qualities more clearly.


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