By Allison Skornick-Rose
Jan 04, 2019 08:58 AM EST

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.
On The Basis of Sex Theatrical Review
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Ninety years ago, as a female in this country, I would not have been able to write this review and have it published.  Those doors would have been closed to me.  Even sixty years ago some of those doors still were not open to women as we were expected to stay at home and take care of our husband and children.  When Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones; Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) entered Harvard Law School in 1956 she was only one of 9 women enrolled, surrounded by approximately 500 men.  The recipient of discrimination, she wanted to change the unjust thinking and laws of this country. Thanks to her tireless efforts discrimination on the basis of sex has made major headway and the new film On the Basis of Sex chronicles her journey in the fight for not just women's rights, but human rights.

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.

Grade: B

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Certificate: 12A
Running Time: 120 minutes
Distributed By: Focus Features

For more information about On The Basis of Sex visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

About Allison Skornick-Rose



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