Director: Mimi Leder
Cast: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, Sam Waterston, Stephen Root, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny
Runtime: 2 hrs
Rating: PG13 (Brief Coarse Language)
Released By: Encore Films
Official Website: http://www.focusfeatures.com/on-the-basis-of-sex
Opening Day: 10 January 2019
Synopsis: On the Basis of Sex is inspired by the true story of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg - then a struggling attorney and new mother - who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights throughout her career. When Ruth takes on a ground-breaking tax case with her husband, attorney Martin Ginsburg, she knows it could change the direction of her career and the way the courts view gender discrimination. The film also chronicles the storybook-like romance between Ruth and Marty, a partnership that succeeded both personally and professionally.
You aren't the only one who first thought that this is a movie about, ahem, sex. Shame on this reviewer, who was initially looking forward to Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer jazzing things up with their on screen chemistry. Shame on this reviewer as well, for feeling a little disappointed when he found out that the movie is only rated PG13 for brief coarse language.
The more well read viewers would know that this biographical drama film is based on the life and early cases of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Known affectionately as RBG, the 85 year old was adored by liberals during the 1980s because of her passion for standing up for disadvantaged groups.
This movie chronicles her early days and takes a look at how the righteous figure came to be. So nope, this isn't a movie about sex.
We see how Ginsburg enters the male dominated Harvard Law School and how she tries her best to find her place in an environment where women are deemed inferior. We also get a glimpse into her family life: she has to raise a young child and take care of a sick husband. Amidst all these, she is a champion for gender equality and believes that more can be done for both sexes to seize opportunities.
This 120 minute movie shows a surprisingly soft side of Ginsburg, considering how she has been portrayed in pop culture (go search for the countless memes online). Jones (who reminds us of her heroic role as Jyn Erso in Rogue One) does a fine job showcasing the different sides of the character she plays. One moment she is a frustrated law student having to face chauvinistic men, the other moment she is a loving wife to a ridiculously good looking husband (Hammer effortlessly channeling his coolness from past works like Call Me By Your Name and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.). Of course, there is also the eureka moment when Jones realises how she can intelligently tackle the system by bringing up a case where a man was unfairly discriminated against on the basis of sex. Jones, whose performance we loved in The Theory of Everything, shines in this inspiring role.
Elsewhere, Justin Theroux (The Spy Who Dumped Me) and Kathy Bates (Boychoir) play supporting characters. Their limited screen time does not stop the two talented actors to shine in their own right.
Director Mimi Leder brings viewers on an emotional journey and paints Ginsburg as a relatable human being instead of a vocal individual who wants the world to hear her voice. As such, the movie never dramatises anything more than it should, and impatient viewers may wish for a more hastened pacing. But if you are in the mood to appreciate a drama with good intentions, this is the movie to find out how the well known RBG came to be. If you are looking for something more vivacious, you may want to hunt down the documentary RBG (how aptly titled) directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.
(Paved with good intentions, this drama showcases fine performances and relatable characters)
Review by John Li