Film Review & Trailer: On the Basis of Sex

Frances Winston reviews this film about a woman who changed history, Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Directed by: Mimi Leder – Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates

This biopic of the inspiring powerhouse that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg (played here by Jones) is written by her nephew, so comes with the approval of the legendary equality advocate. Therefore you know you are probably going to get something closer to the facts than many similar offerings.

If you’re not familiar with RBG’s back-story, she has been fighting the good fight since the 1970s, having actually graduated from law school in the 1950s.

Despite graduating top of her class, she herself experienced discrimination, as law firms were uncomfortable employing a woman, so she was forced to turn to teaching rather than practising law. That was until the feminist movement of the 70s awakened the equality zeitgeist in the US.

The big shift for her was when her husband, Martin (also a lawyer) brought home a tax case that discriminated against a man. Realising that this could set a precedent for discrimination on the basis of sex, RBG made her first foray into the courtroom, years after graduating. The rest as they say is history.

This case takes up the bulk of the movie, although we do get her academic back-story for the first 20 minutes or so. We learn how she juggled school with a young child and her husband’s cancer diagnosis, and see that she has been a force to be reckoned with for her entire life.

Jones is excellent as RBG, and surprisingly, the usually wooden and tedious Armie Hammer isn’t terrible as her loving and supportive husband, Martin (that is probably the best thing I will ever say about one of his performances, so suck it up Armie).

Justin Theroux does a great job as RBG’s devil’s advocate, Mel Wulf, of the American Civil Liberties Union. However, he sports a very dingy moustache throughout, and I couldn’t help thinking that Jennifer Aniston may actually have divorced him over facial fluff (honestly – it’s shocking!)

That aside (and on a serious note) many of the issues raised in this movie are still as relevant today (which is unfortunate) so more than a few scenes should strike a chord with audience members.

There is nothing ground-breaking here, but you do get a good sense of RBG, and her passion and tenacity. For many people, this will be their introduction to her back-story, and, as such, it serves its purpose. At times, it feels like an underdog story, rather than a portrait of a strong, proud woman (particularly the finale) but this is one of the few flaws in an otherwise enjoyable and entertaining biopic.

Of course it helps that RBG has had an incredible life. This will leave you all fired up and ready to fight any injustice you see, and I defy you not to get the warm and fuzzies when the real RBG makes an appearance at the end.

 In Cinemas Now! Trailer below: 

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