It wasn’t long ago women weren’t allowed to vote, let alone run for political office, pursue a legal career or become a Supreme Court Justice. Ruth Bader Ginsburg defied the odds and not without controversy or complications, which is now the plot point of On The Basis of Sex.
Starring Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer, the first act of this film flies by outlining the greatest hits of Ginsburg’s life before diving head first into the landmark case that made her career. Ginsburg argued in 1975, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, where a widower was denied his wife’s survivor benefits under Social Security. Ginsberg successfully argued this violated the right to equal protection secured by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Armie Hammer as Marty Ginsburg has finally landed in a role that makes use of his natural charm and acting skills. After having more misses than hits onscreen, it was nice to finally see him flourish onscreen. Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodies the spirit that has made the Supreme Court Justice memorable, but her floating in and out of her British accent was a little distracting at times.
It was refreshing to see that Hollywood got it right this time with the direction of Mimi Leder. However, the one issue for me is the fact that like ‘Marshall’, the film focuses on a ground breaking case of Ginsburg and not the life of the woman herself. While her legacy in law is beyond admirable, her personal life is just as fascinating and I would have loved to have seen the film approached from that vantage point. This a woman, who in the 50’s, not only took on her own studies, but her husband’s as well while being a mother and law student at Harvard. Saying this was difficult for her is a mild understatement. Not to mention the fact that she literally had to start over upon re-locating to New York at Columbia and still coming out top of her class.
On the Basis of Sex will enlighten and inspire many young women who have the opportunity to screen the film. As it is only by seeing someone thrive in a lane you want to be in that will drive one to achieve more that what is seen as readily available.
Produced by Focus Features and Amblin Partners, On the Basis of Sex was the opening night film at the 2018 AFI Film Festival and hits theaters in worldwide release on Christmas Day.