2018 seems to be the year of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, well at least that is the case at the movies. After the incredible documentary RBG from earlier this year which showed her life now and then, we get On the Basis of Sex which tells of the turning point for both her and history. Ginsburg who has seemed to be behind every case for women’s equality is front and center in this one as not only does she fight for women, but also for her chance to be the one to lead the charge.
We meet Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) while in Harvard where she is one of the few women that has been allowed to attend law school. This is for sure a man’s world and everything is stacked against her. Her husband Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) has no such obstacles and is seen and a rising star. When Marty gets sick while in school, Ruth not only takes care of him and their daughter, she also attends both of their classes so that he doesn’t fall behind. When they graduate Marty has no problem finding a job, but Ruth is turned down over and over, and for someone who only wants to practice law, she has to settle on a teaching position at Rutgers. She is given a new chance when a case involving discrimination against a man for a caregiver write-off is presented to her, as she sees it as a gateway to bring down many laws that discriminate against women. With a fight she is able to take the case and in doing so not only changes the course of her life but also for all women in this country.
First off if you have a woman in your life, you should all thank Ginsburg for what she has done for women. While she didn’t do it on her own, she was a driving force behind women’s ability to do what they want and not just what is expected of them. As for On the Basis of Sex writer Daniel Stielpeman takes the small window route in since his focus is on a part of her life instead of telling her whole story. While the case is important and Jones is given her chance to shine, (which she does) the film feels like a cookie cutter story about someone who did something important. There feels like there was nothing to lose even though at the time there was plenty to, but it just doesn’t resonate because of where we are now. It is crazy that fifty years ago women were held at this standard, but this is the story of just one, and on one case that while important for what it did, director Mimi Leder doesn’t convey that on the screen. Jones and Hammer are both great, but they are not able to breathe life into an average film. Ginsburg’s story should be heard and luckily we have RBG to tell it to us of her importance, so if you want learn about this incredible woman see that, but if you want a lighter version that sticks to a single part of her life, well this choice is fine enough.