Ruther Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court on August 10, 1993. On The Basis of Sex allows us to dive into Ginsburg’s life before her appointment as Associate Justice, showcasing how she came to be the popular icon and role model she is today. With 2018 marking the 25th anniversary of Ginsburg’s appointment, there is no shock that On The Basis of Sex proves to be the second film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg this year, the first being a documentary by Betsy West and Julie Cohen titled RBG. With Ginsburg’s increasing popularity, On The Basis of Sex has become highly-anticipated and holds exceeding expectations.
Directed by Miriam Leder and written by Daniel Stiepleman, On The Basis of Sex holds a strong foundation with its behind-the-scenes team. Daniel Stiepleman, as Ruther Bader Ginsburg’s nephew, assured accuracy in the portrayal of the story and the figures within. Miriam Leder, growing up in a Jewish household, brings the directorial connection and perspective needed for Ginsburg’s feminist biopic.
In addition to the crew behind the scenes, the movie would not be what it is without its cast. Starring award winning actress Felicity Jones as Ruth and Armie Hammer as Martin (Marty) Ginsburg, the performances hold strong despite previous criticisms and worries towards casting choices. The film also gives us brief performances from notable names such as Justin Theroux as Mel Wulf, Sam Waterston as Erwin Griswold, and Kathy Bates as Dorothy Kenyon.
Although the film displays a strong feminist standpoint, it would have been interesting to see an incorporation of the layers that may have affected the Ginsburg’s life and their opportunity to pursue their careers. Being a woman pursuing law was difficult, but pursuing it as a Jewish woman of the time would have proved to be even harder. In the same sense, Marty is displayed as having his career come to him easily however it makes you wonder that perhaps he may have had his own obstacles in consequence to his faith.
In addition to the main storyline of Ruth and the way in which she fought towards gender equality, I would have liked to see more development of the story with the Ginsburg family, specifically her daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny). After all, as Dorothy Kenyon states in the film, it was her generation that was providing the cornerstone for change. Unfortunately, we only get a brief cameo of an on-campus protest and fleeting discussions of Janes ideas for the future of women.
Overall, the film does its job to display a narrative that challenges patriarchal models. For one, there are obvious flipped roles in terms of what is usually seen as ideal for example, Marty can cook whereas Ruth cannot. In addition to this, Marty also freely displays his emotions, crying if he must. By doing so, Marty is challenging the ideas of toxic masculinity perpetuated throughout society.
Leder does a fantastic job showcasing the story and characters development through visuals.In the opening scene, Ruth is portrayed as being seemingly lost in a sea of men walking into her first day at Harvard Law. In the closing scene, this is challenged with a scene displaying Ruth walking into the Supreme Court with nobody around, melting into a pleasing cameo of the real Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself. Scenes such as these are in no short supply throughout the film and Leder showcases clever bits of symbolism that add to the films overall success.
One area in which the film does lack comes in the form of its soundtrack. Some of the soundtrack may have not done the movie any justice with its out of place pop tunes. Similar to putting Jay Z into the 2013 version of The Great Gatsby, it just might not have been the best choice.
Despite its flaws, the film has the enjoyability and ease of a Lifetime movie and On The Basis of Sex will leave the audience inspired and ready to start a revolution.