On the Basis of Sex
dir Mimi Leder
scr Daniel Stiepleman
prd Robert W Cort, Jonathan King
with Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Cailee Spaeny, Jack Reynor, Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, Kathy Bates, Chris Mulkey, Ronald Guttman, Gabrielle Graham, John Ralston
release US 25.Dec.18, UK 9.Feb.19
18/US Focus 2h00
On the Basis of Sex
Equals: Hammer and Jones

theroux reynor waterston
See also:
RBG (2018)
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
On the Basis of Sex The extraordinary life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the focus of this strikingly well-made biopic, which covers a momentous 20-year period in her life two decades before she was named to the US Supreme Court. The title refers to her landmark work to improve gender equality as guaranteed by the US Constitution. With a lively script, the film is involving and inspiring.

One of very few women, Ruth (Jones) enters Harvard Law School in 1956, At the top of her class, she transfers to Columbia when her tax lawyer husband Marty (Hammer) takes a job in New York. But even with this pedigree, no law firm will hire a woman, so she turns to teaching. Then in 1970 she finds a case that could end centuries of discriminatory laws. Working with her husband and civil-rights lawyer Mel (Theroux), she takes on her former mentors (Waterston and Root) and their hot young frontman (Reynor) in federal court.

Ginsburg took specific aim not at overt discrimination, but at laws that reinforced that the only place a woman belonged was in the home. Stiepleman's script carefully peppers the film with micro-bigotry that often goes unnoticed. Even Ginsburg's oldest friends treat her as a "girl", and the only man who considers her an equal is her husband. No wonder that, even though she has one of the finest legal minds in American history, she struggled to find work after law school. In a parallel universe, she would have been US President decades ago.

Jones delivers a nicely understated performance, even if the English rose actress seems slightly miscast as the Jewish New Yorker. At least the physicality is right, as everyone towers over her. And Jones nails Ginsburg's fierce inner determination. Hammer is also very good, especially in the more intimate scenes with Jones, even if he also seems an odd casting choice. And as their no-nonsense daughter Jane, Spaeny adds a terrific next-generation spark to the film.

Basically the origin story for a real-life superhero, this is a rousing movie about a woman who refused to be limited by traditional gender roles, then after fighting against them all her life ended up changing the world for the better. The film beautifully reflects how Ginsburg continues to do this through her focus on things that matter and her painstaking work to whittle away at the cruel sexism that was built into society for centuries and needs to be obliterated now.

cert pg themes, language 28.Nov.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall