On The Basis Of Sex

Film, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)
On The Basis Of Sex

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Felicity Jones stars in this brainy dramatisation of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s rise to legal prominence in the 1970s.

Thinkers debate with passion in Mimi Leder’s intellectual ‘On the Basis of Sex’, a knowingly old-fashioned (but far from dated) biopic of the inimitable Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Written by the 85-year-old Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman with affection for his aunt’s lifelong work on behalf of women’s rights – as well as her decidedly ennobled marriage founded on pure equality – ‘On the Basis of Sex’ (like the stirring documentary ‘RBG’) is both a welcome cinematic dissent from today’s disastrous politics and a reminder that words, paired with meaningful action, can change the world.

A winning, inspirational crowd-pleaser, Leder’s film follows the early accomplishments of the young Ginsburg (an assured Felicity Jones, convincingly slipping into the trailblazer’s shoes), beginning in 1956. That’s the year in which the bouncy, opinionated Ruth marches into male-dominated Harvard Law School – at a dinner party, the handful of female students are asked to justify their academic seats, ones that could have gone to ‘Harvard Men’. It’s also where her devoted, ever-supportive husband Marty (Armie Hammer, lovably pragmatic) studies.

Through Marty’s unforeseen health crisis and Ruth’s unfairly deterred professional aspirations (excuse after sexist excuse, law firms refuse to hire her), the film patiently advances toward the ’70s, focusing on the couple’s family life and Ruth’s career as a professor, leading sizzling feminist discourse among razor-sharp minds of the era. The script’s centrepiece is a pivotal sex-discrimination case that launched RBG’s legal legacy in earnest: Working with her tax-attorney husband, she represents Denver-based Charles Moritz (Christian Mulkey), a kindly man caring for his ailing mother but denied the proper tax deductions by an archaic law that declares only women can be primary caregivers.

Well-paced and directed with gusto, ‘On the Basis of Sex’ finds an accessible, near-perfect tone, balancing serious courtroom drama and frequent legal jargon with tastefully Hollywood-ised emotional embellishments. Playing Ginsburg’s liberated teenage daughter Jane, Cailee Spaeny inflames some of the film’s most memorable moments as the voice of a younger generation sparking a renewed sense of feminism. It’s uplifting stuff but not in the least bit escapist: If anything, Leder’s film civilly urges us to face today’s injustices head-on, armed with conviction and a steady gaze.

By: Tomris Laffly



Release details

Release date:
Friday February 22 2019
120 mins

Cast and crew

Mimi Leder
Daniel Stiepleman
Felicity Jones
Armie Hammer
Justin Theroux
Cailee Spaeny

Users say (1)

4 out of 5 stars

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Felicity Jones is portraying another inspirational woman (Ruth Bader Ginsberg) whose husband could have died young. Fortunately, this husband went on to lead a full , active and healthy life as a lawyer.  Despite being an intelligent, forward thinking woman, Mrs. Ginsberg finds her professional path blocked by backward thinking men. She realises changes must be made to the American laws in order to effect change.It's a struggle she is prepared to and more than capable of taking on. If only there were more women like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and fewer patriachal men, our societies would have become more equal a long time ago and we wouldn't still be fighting for equal pay for women in 2019!