On the Basis of Sex (2018)
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One thing though: I don't understand the reviews that slam the movie as being "political" all we saw was a lawyer sincerely trying to ensure everyone received the same treatment under the law.
Long may she serve!
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! I was drawn in and enjoyed the acting very much. The subject matter and characters felt very real, and to think it was even remotely based on a true story made this movie a home-run for me.
The film showed us a human RBG with fears and flaws. It also shows the overwhelming support she received from her family, which helped make her the success she had become.
Guide: 1 F-word.
It was mentioned as well in the extras track that the film sought to depict "one of the greatest love stories of all time." While this statement may have been an exaggeration based on all the time that Marty and Ruth Ginsburg devoted to their careers rather than the enterprise of love, the film was successful in blending biography with an influential legal case that argued discrimination on the basis of sex to be unconstitutional.
Armie Hammer performs role of the litigator husband Marty, who is assigned the role traditionally given to long-suffering housewives. Marty cares for the children while Ruth spends long days teaching at Rutgers, where her classes are filled with young, intelligent women with a token male student. In the kitchen, Marty wields a knife like a surgeon as he dutifully chops vegetables while Ruth prepares to take revenge on her sexist male professors from law school.
The film is worth viewing as a civics lesson. As a liberal attorney and later Supreme Court Justice, Ginsburg is a perfect illustration of how the powerful courts engage in "legislating from the bench," as opposed to strict interpretation of the Constitution. In Ginsburg's argument before Denver's Tenth Circuit Court, the result was a change related to tax law that had ramifications for universal revision of gender equality in the marketplace.
The phenomenon of the court flexing its muscles demonstrates how our separation of powers work, especially when Congress is foot-dragging in failing to change the law to suit the times, as apparent in this film in gender discrimination. The epigram of "Reason is the soul of law" appeared in the courtroom of the Denver Circuit Court, demonstrating that a persuasive legal argument may cause the powerful judges to rethink the application of individual laws.
The film was crisply directed primarily on location in Montreal. The costumes were effective in evoking the timeframe of the film primarily from the 1950s through the '70s. Felicity Jones was outstanding in the role of Ginsburg. Although her Brooklyn accent wasn't always consistent, she nonetheless captured the poise and determination of Ruth Bader "Kiki" Ginsburg. The relationship between Kiki and her feisty daughter Jane was especially well performed.
From start to finish, Jones delivers a moving performance of the little fireball Kiki Ginsburg. First in her class at Harvard and Columbia law schools, Ginsburg is a demonstration of how one person can truly make a difference in the world. This is a film to be watched and enjoyed by the entire family.
Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from director Mimi Leder, best known for 2000's "Pay It Forward". Here she brings to the big screen the early years in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's career. Let be very clear: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an amazingly sharp lawyer who endured sex discrimination at every opportunity, to the point that she decided to do something about. AND THEN DID IT. Flash forward: June, 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of her stint on the US Supreme Court. In other words, this is such a remarkable woman. Sadly, "On the Basis of Sex" doesn't do justice to this outstanding woman and lawyer. In fact, "On the Basis of Sex' is done strictly by-the-numbers, without any dramatic tension and with an utter predictability that makes this almost into a snooze fest. (Some reviewers here apparently do not/cannot differentiate between this remarkable woman and what a good movie actually is or should be...) As it happens, in 2018 a documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg called "RBG" was released. "RBG" puts "On the Basis of Sex" to shame, frankly, and I am 99% certain that "RBG" will pick up an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary in the near future (and I am equally certain that "On the Basis of Sex" will not get any Oscar nominations). Playing the role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Felicity Jones, bless her heart, tries the best she can with the material that she is given, but in the end she cannot overcome the movie's fatal flaw, namely a weak script. To be clear: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a shining light and role model for so many, and very deservedly so. But that doesn't make "On the Basis of Sex" a good movie... Bottom line: if you haven't seen either of "RBG" and "On the Basis of Sex", by all means chose "RBG". If you've seen "RBG" already, don't bother with "On the Basis of Sex".
"On the Basis of Sex" has seen a very limited release so far, but will expand nationally this coming weekend. It currently has been playing in one single theater here in Cincinnati. The Tuesday evening screening where I saw this at was attended okay but not great (about 10-12 people). I had good hopes for this movie, but when I compare this to "RBG", there is no doubt which one is (by far) the better movie. Of course I encourage you to check out "On the Basis of Sex", be it in the theater, on VOD, or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray, and draw your own conclusion. And don't forget about "RBG"!
*UPDATE* 1/22/19 As I predicted, "RBG" received an Oscar nomination (for Best Documentary). "On the Basis of Sex" did not get any Oscar nominations. (While "RBG" is a strong contender, in the end I see the Oscar for Best Documentary going to "Free Solo".)
Leder avoids Ginsburg's tenure as the present day Supreme Court justice and focuses on her early career as a student at Harvard Law school and later as a Rutgers professor leading the fight in an important tax case linked to the issue of sex discrimination.
The first quarter of the film deals with Ginsburg having to cope with her husband Marvin's diagnosis of testicular cancer while they're both students at Harvard Law. While he's laid up, Ginsburg takes his classes for him (as well as her own). While her efforts to help her husband were certainly noble, there isn't much conflict at this point in the narrative. Only Sam Waterston as the law school dean, and his pushing back on Ginsburg's request to finish her degree at Columbia, provides some dramatic relief.
The bulk of the film deals with the case of Moritz vs. Commissioner, the 1970 tax case in which Moritz was denied a tax deduction after hiring a nurse to care for his disabled mother. At that time, the tax code only allowed for a deduction for "a woman, a widower or divorcée, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized". So ironically, Ginsburg ended up championing a man who was the victim of sex discrimination in this particular (and rather anomalous) case.
Perhaps the best character in the film is Mel Wulff (Justin Theroux), the ACLU attorney whom Ginsburg is referred to by noted civil rights activist Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates). Theroux does a fine job conveying the character's folksy qualities. In contrast, Jones as Ginsburg gives a virtual generic performance. Perhaps it's also screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman fault, as Ginsburg's idiosyncrecies are not at all evident. Only Ginsburg's conflict with a rebellious daughter is trotted out to flesh out her character.
Things pick up a bit toward the climax when Ginsburg loses her cool during a practice moot court and it's decided that her husband will be first chair during the final Court of Appeals hearing. Jones has her best moment when she offers up a stirring summation which leads the court to strike down the antiquated laws that kept the shibboleth of sex discrimination in place for so many years.
On the Basis of Sex provides some information about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her early career that is certainly informative. But what makes Ginsburg different from other civil rights pioneers who have gone up against the establishment and won? I don't see this film answering that question. Perhaps focusing upon the later unlikely friendship between Ginsburg and the right-wing conservative Supreme Justice Scalia, would have proven more interesting.
Sandra Day O'Conner is the woman who actually blazed a trail for women in the field of law, and to the highest court in the land.
But, I suppose no one in Hollywood would want to do an honest film about a Conservative woman who battled her way to the top, and was the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, by a Conservative President Ronald Reagan.
It would just make it harder to sell the lie that conservatives are misogynists.
I like Felicity Jones a lot, but it was distracting when she couldn't maintain an American accent- sort of lost some authenticity, luckily for the most part, she did a good job.
All the other actors did a great job.