On The Basis Of Sex Review

By Liselotte Vanophem

“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” And did the American Ruth Bader Ginsburg became her own person and independent? Yes, she absolutely did! As an advocate for gender equality and women’s rights, she stood her ground in court numerous times fighting for what she believed in. The same rights for both men and women to stop gender discrimination.

She was an inspiration for her generation and for more generations to come and now she is the inspiration for director Mimi Leder (“The Leftovers”, “Deep Impact”). Together with leading lady Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”, “Rogue One”), she brings the life of Ginsburg to the big screen in the most respectful way by making an elegant and charming film.

Bright, joyful and full of life. That’s what the very first scene of the film makes us feel and it’s exactly what Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Jones) was feeling when she was attending her first day at the Harvard Law School.

From the very start, she knows that the thing she wants to fight for really needs to be fought for: equality for both men and women. In class or during dinners, it becomes obvious that the position of a woman in society is “at home, taking care of the children and being the support of her husband” and she wants to do something about it.

While she’s finally making progress in college life, her family life faces a disastrous setback. Ginsburg’s husband Martin, a second-year law student, falls ill with cancer. However, she’s determined to make it work. She attends both her classes and his while caring for Martin and their infant daughter Jane.

Fast-forward to 1970, a few years after the tragic news. Martin is hired by a firm in New York but Ruth, graduated at the top of her class, is struggling to find a position with a law firm. None of the firms want to hire a woman.

This encourages Ginsburg even more and when a tax law case is brought to her attention, she knows she has the case on her hands that might transform the future. It involves discrimination against a man and the position of men in society. Will she be able to turn around the expectations about men and women and change the inequality or will she set it back to a hundred years ago?

If you thought that “On the Basis of Sex” was only for women who want to find inspiration on how to start a new female movement, think again. It’s a film for everyone as it’s about discrimination against both men and women. Most of the time, we’re confronted with the injustice of women so it’s nice to be reminded again that men also face unfairness.

The story is set in the early late sixties and early seventies but it could have easily have been a more modern story. Since that era, it already changed a lot but still today there’s inequality on the basis of sex. Sadly, the potential change in how society thinks about men and women could have been more represented in this film if the movie didn’t focus so much on that one case Ginsburg gets her hands on. But hey, winning or losing one case can have some impact.

At the very end of “On the Basis of Sex”, we see a glimpse of the real Ruth Bader Ginsburg and when you look back on the film, you realize how wonderful and respectful Felicity Jones has portrayed her in the film. The dedication and determination from Ginsburg aren’t over-played and thanks to Jones, we do feel the anger, bravery, and willpower of her character.

Yes, sometimes the British accent slips through but it doesn’t really bother that much. Also congratulations to the costume department for making Jones looking like she came right out of the seventies.

Not a woman supporting a man but the other way around. Armie Hammer (“Call Me by Your Name”, “Sorry to Bother You”) is fine support for Jones as the funny and loving but also as the tenacious and smart husband. Especially during the climax of the film, the combination Jones-Hammer is at this best. More determination and tenacity comes from Cailee Spaeny (“Vice”, “Bad Times at the El Royale”) who portrays the stubborn teenage daughter who wants to help her parents change the world.

Ok yes, “On The Basis of Sex” has its flaws but it’s still a charming and charismatic film. It tells a story that’s as accurate as it was when the events took place and director Leder and writer Daniel Stiepleman, who makes his writing debut with this film, handle Ginsburg’s life with the respect she deserves. Both Jones and Hammer add more respect to that with their fine performance. Whether you’re a man or woman, you’ll enjoy this film without a doubt.

Originally published at www.ocmoviereviews.com on February 23, 2019.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store