On the Basis of Sex is as dry a film as they come. That isn’t to say that the subject matter isn’t interesting and empowering. What you have with this film is simply just not that interesting for the big screen.
Based on the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), now an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The story follows the struggles Ruth faced as she tried to not only be a supportive wife to her husband, Martin (Armie Hammer) but as she tried to build a place for herself and women in the world of Law circa 1970.
A strong feminist and active lecturer of women’s rights, Ruth struggles to find purpose. Martin happens to come across a case which not only tapped into the wealth of knowledge Ruth has in individual’s rights on a humanitarian level but flipped it. The case Ruth and Martin took on was to overturn a ruling which gave women rights but ignored men in the same situation. As such, the success of this case would open a world of possibility for human rights.
The story has a fine line between getting to know who Ruth is as a person, mother, wife and lecturer. It then goes on to showcase the interesting and somewhat challenging case for its time. Where this film manages to lose its footing is in the fact is it spends too much time on the life of Ruth. From there it tries to jam a wealth of information about the particular case that catapults Ruth’s career. It doesn’t know if it’s a biography or if it’s a law film. In turn, the film becomes dry and for the most part hard to latch on.
While the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is truly remarkable and wonderful at the same time, her career has become the subject of a great many other biographies leading up to the release of On the Basis of Sex. As such, a more detailed account of this particular case the film looks at would have been a better subject matter leaving the biography to the biographies themselves.
Felicity Jones (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Inferno, The Theory of Everything) leads the cast as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. While Jones for the most part is able to slip into a range of interesting characters, her ability is somewhat limited as Ruth. The resemblance to many of her other characters is sadly similar as she doesn’t quite take on the real persona of Ruth. This isn’t helped by her constant slipping accent.
Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Social Network) is Ruth’s husband Martin Ginsburg. Hammer plays a rather wishy-washy character as well. It can only be assumed the husband of the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States would have a rather stronger personality. He manages to pull emotion where it’s required but otherwise offers nothing to his performance.
Overall, the film is an interesting look at what started a young lawyer’s career, but also started the change for a great deal of somewhat sexist laws. It is interesting in that it’s nice to have some background to such a historical case and where the now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States started. However, the film doesn’t offer any major entertainment value more than a documentary would.
Review by Jay Cook