By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been in the news lately, but sadly, this been due to some health problems. Still, there is no denying her amazing contributions to social justice–particularly her work in advancing women’s rights. This new movie by director Mimi Leder attempts to honor and celebrate the trailblazing work of Ginsburg, when she worked as an attorney while also caring for her ailing husband Martin and juggling the roles and responsibilities of being a mother. Starring Felicity Jones, On the Basis of Sex does manage to accomplish its purpose, but does so in some not-so-interesting ways.
During the late 1950s, Ruth Bader Ginsburg became one of some very few women to attend Harvard Law School. While there, she had to prove herself to all of her male contemporaries and a male dominated faculty which didn’t quite seem to take the women students as seriously as they should. Despite some trying obstacles involving her husband’s declining health due to cancer, and his later burgeoning legal career, Ruth would finish law school and attempt to launch a legal career of her own. This proves to be an even bigger challenge, as women were not so readily accepted in the more recognized law firms of the era. While working as an instructor, Ruth gets her chance to shine when she gets an opportunity to take on a gender discrimination case.
Written by Daniel Stiepleman, Mimi Leder’s biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg does prove to be somewhat inspiring, but nowhere nearly as insightful or inspiring as the documentary RBG. Leder’s film feels a bit too Hollywood and by the numbers for its own good. The result is a charming and enjoyable film, but one thar doesn’t quite come across as genuine as it should.
The cast members perform earnestly and solidly in their role, but aren’t exactly transcendent in their portrayals. Felicity puts much heart and strength into her portrayal as Ginsburg, but the limitations of the writing keeps her bound to dimensional limitations. Armie Hammer offers another charming turn in the film, but not once did I feel that he truly became Martin Ginsburg. The movie features fine work by Sam Waterston, Cailee Spaeny, Jack Reynor, and Stephen Root. The only real standout would be Justin Theroux who stars as Mel Wulf, and gives the character some sarcastic zeal and wit.
And though this movie serves as an adequate biopic for a remarkable lady, I feel that she deserves something more exciting and inspiring. After all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg refused to accept the so-called status quo of the fifties where women always played second fiddle to men. Why should her biopic follow the expected format?