On The Basis of Sex is a biopic that follows the story of Supreme Court Justice: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This film follows her life events, the adversity she faced, as well as the discrimination she fought in order to change the justice system and the minds of many.
Does this film do justice to her and her influence to society? Let’s take a look.
In all honesty I had never heard of Ruth Bader Ginsburg before seeing this film, this was my first experience with her story and I feel like it left a wonderful impression with a few notable faults that can be placed on the shoulders of film cliché. This story follows Ruth’s journey through her education, early career, and the Charles Moritz case that provided precedent for cases fought in the name of gender equality within the law. While this film’s story is well focused and well executed, with many relatable, well written, and very real characters surrounding Ruth (Felicity Jones) it felt as if the development of our lead was lacking when compared to the rest of the cast. By far the most notable of these was her husband Martin D. Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) who felt very three-dimensional. He was kind, supportive, and dedicated while also being a product of his time and obviously trying his best to see the issues in the way his wife saw them. Occasionally getting frustrated but always standing by her regardless. When this is compared to our lead we don’t see much character growth as a lot of her life prior to the beginning of the Charles Moritz case was glossed over and not given enough time to watch her fight her battles and earn her 11th hour victory, it just ended up feeling unearned. However, the supporting cast more than makes up for this with interesting character development, complex personal struggles, and their own ideas about how Ruth’s battle should be fought.
Presentation in this film was well done, there was enough detail, visual storytelling and tact used in the mise en scene to keep me engaged with the story that the environment was telling of a world oblivious to the struggles and oppression of those who weren’t already in power and the way it was shown deserves more than a few compliments. Well done Mimi Leder. The film’s soundtrack was unfortunately very sparse and left a few dialogue heavy scenes feeling a bit slow and plodding which didn’t help with the already frantic, schizophrenic pace of the first third of this film which is thankfully cleared up by the time we hit the 1970s. The performances from both Hammer and Jones bring their characters to life when they are allowed room to breathe and develop. Jones’ acting chops are on full display when Ruth is given a chance to express herself and her performance is impressive.
On the Basis of Sex is a very well done biopic, its characters are all well written and developed besides Ruth Bader Ginsburg who comes off as a very cliche, almost underdog sports film-like hero with her eleventh hour speech that felt like it came out of nowhere. It has issues with its pacing in the first third but is quickly cleaned up and replaced with a lot more of a natural flow in the latter two-thirds. In terms of the soundtrack there was no stand out songs or tunes that I could retain for very long and sometimes the dead air would bog down the dialogue but the dialogue itself was very well written and believable. Compared to my favourite biopic of all time ,8-Mile,some of the film could have used more time to focus on our lead and make the big speech and triumph at the end very justified and deserved. I would still recommend this film to see a less detailed but still more than interesting look at one of the most important women of all time.