Hollywood of late has become the land of the based on a true story. The powers that be over there definitely think they are more likely to get money out of us if the films they put out films about real people and their experiences. Fair enough.
This time they have chosen to portray an woman who has become known worldwide due to her accomplishments and the way the present government (and President) has attacked – Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Very rarely does a member of the Supreme Court earn such adoration and notariety. RBG has become the legal representation of the left in the United States as well as a cultural icon. All this due to her fight for equal rights for women.
On the Basis of Sex begins with the Ginsburgs, Ruth (Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Inferno) and Martin (Armie Hammer – Call Me By Your Name, Hotel Mumbai), being recently married and having a young baby. All this while both are in the law program at Harvard. Ruth is swimming against the current as women had only recently been allowed to be part of the law program. She is now only one of nine first year students who happen to be female. The program is a cesspool of sexism against which she wages battle on a daily basis, even from the dean Erwin Griswold (Sam Waterson – from television’s Law & Order). This despite the fact that she is an excellent student.
Such a strong student that when Martin, who is one year ahead of her in the program, falls sick she attends his classes for him as well as her own. Oh, and also takes care of him and their child.
Martin recovers and graduates. He is offered a position at a big New York firm, so they move from Boston there leading to Ruth finishing her studies at Columbia University. She graduates top of her class. Despite this she cannot find a job.
More than a decade later, the repeated slights of the good old boys network lead to Ruth being pushed too far – as well as being prodded to be more of a feminist by her now teenage daughter, Jane (Cailee Spaeny – Vice, Pacific Rim: Uprising) – she decides to take on the sexual discrimination in the legal system by using the case of a man who was not granted a tax break because he was a man. This will, for obvious reasons, be an uphill fight.
The film spans the beginning of her career and how she came to fight against discrimination on the…you guessed it…basis of sex. One would have to believe the accuracy of the story being told as the screenwriter, Daniel Stiepleman (first script) is RBG’s nephew and she reviewed the script.
Throughout the film you are continuously amazed at what this woman had to overcome and what she was able to achieve. An aspect of the story which I loved was the whole Ruth and Martin relationship. How supportive he was and how they adored one another which gave each the strength to beat cancer and change legal history.
The two main actors, Jones and Hammer, each turn in very different yet note perfect portrayals of their characters. In the beginning of his career I wasn’t sure about Armie Hammer. Most of that due to flops like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Lone Ranger. Career rebound has happened with his last few roles and I find myself firmly on board the Armie Hammer fan bus. The more daunting task was given to Felicity Jones. One, because her character is so beloved and two, because RBG is not exactly warm and fuzzy. Harder to get people watching the film who don’t know much about the Supreme Court Justice to empathize with this hard woman. She accomplishes this while still conveying the dedication and intelligence of the woman.
Directed by Mimi Leder (Deep Impact, The Peacemaker), the film is an important one in that younger women today can see for themselves what women of another era had to battle against for equality.
-A Supreme Team: Making On the Basis of Sex
-Legacy of Justice
-Martin and Ruth: A Loving Partnership