On The Basis of Sex Theatrical Review
Felicity Jones is excellent as the small-statured spitfire that took on numerous males all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Ruth often felt the sting of discrimination while at Harvard Law and transferred in her last year to Columbia Law School in order to follow her husband, Martin (Armie Hammer; Call Me By Your Name) who took a job at a law firm in New York City. Despite graduating at the top of her class, Ruth could not find work as a lawyer so she ended up teach Law at Rutgers University in New Jersey.
In 1972 Ruth and Martin took on Mortiz vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue after a male caregiver, Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey; Whiplash), was denied a tax deduction because he was a single male taking care of his elderly mother. Skeptics doubted Ruth's ability to try the case since she had never been in a courtroom. However, when the time came she expertly argued the case and won which opened the door to argue discrimination in another 174 laws.
Jones is excellent as the small-statured spitfire that took on numerous males all the way up to the Supreme Court. She portrays Ginsburg as the hardworking, intelligent woman that she truly is (if you have the opportunity you should also check out the documentary about Ginsburg that came out in 2018). Jones is well matched by Hammer who plays Martin as the intelligent, loving and supporting husband people have said he was in real life. Cailee Spaeny (Vice) matches the adults as the Ginsburg's teenage daughter, Jane and the film is peppered with strong performances from other cast members such as Sam Waterson (Law & Order), Justin Theroux (The Girl On the Train) and Kathy Bates (Misery).
Unfortunately, Director Mimi Leder (Deep Impact) has an uneven hand at the helm and the movie lags for much of the first two acts not really picking up steam until the last third of the film. She also makes use of cliched techniques to heighten the dramatic effect (i.e. the microphone feedback when Ruth nervously stands in front of the appeals court trying Moritz vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue or when she grabs Hammer's arm to stop him from rising and speaking as if she has suddenly gained the courage to make her argument towards the end of the trial). While slick and glossy, these tools have been done countless times before and though they add to the drama, they do so in a cheesy sort of way.
On the Basis of Sex offers insight into the legendary woman and her fight for equal rights but doesn't always live up to the lofty figure she is known to be. However, it is mostly entertaining if every so often frustrating especially if you are a woman. It reminds us of a darker time in the laws of this country that are in the not so distant past while shining a bright spotlight on an incredible human being – let alone a woman.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 120 minutes
Distributed By: Focus Features
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