★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an American icon. She has always stood up for those who have been marginalized, being a champion for women's rights for many decades. And at 85, she continues to inspire.
On the Basis of Sex, while not fully living up to its subject, is a good biopic. Set between the 1950s & 1970s, the film follows Ruth Bader Ginsburg (played by Felicity Jones), a first-year student at Harvard Law School. Ruth is married to Martin Ginsburg (played by Armie Hammer), a second-year student at Harvard Law School. When Martin is diagnosed with testicular cancer, Ruth not only continues her classes, but goes to Martin's classes as well, while taking care of their daughter Jane (played by Cailee Spaeny).
When Martin gets a job at a law firm in New York, Ruth requests to finish her Harvard law degree at Columbia University; however, Dean Erwin Griswold (played by Sam Waterston) declines her request. She eventually transfers to Columbia & receives her law degree, finishing at the top of her class, but no law firm will hire her since she is a woman. As a result, she finds herself teaching The Law & Sex Discrimination at Rutgers University.
In 1970, Martin tells Ruth of a tax case in Denver: Charles Moritz (played by Chris Mulkey), a single man, was denied a tax deduction for his hiring of a nurse to take care of his invalid mother. The law says that only women, widowers, & men whose wives are institutionalized or incapacitated qualify for the tax deduction. Ruth sees this as a challenge to the age-old stereotype that men work while women are the caregivers. If Ruth sets a precedent with the case, it can be used in cases of discrimination against women. With the help of Martin, Jane, ACLU advisor Mel Wulf (played by Justin Theroux) & activist Dorothy Kenyon (played by Kathy Bates), Ruth might just be able to win this case.
The cast is amazing. Felicity Jones is magnificent as Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Armie Hammer is terrific. And Cailee Spaeny is the standout of the talented supporting cast.
Mimi Leder's direction is great. Although there are some moments that executed in a fashion that is too sentimental, Leder is able to get the message across in a palatable, crowd-pleasing manner.
And Daniel Steipleman's screenplay is very good. Although the plot is predictable & the characters outside of Ruth, Martin & Jane are a bit flat, the dialogue is the saving grace.
This is a solid film. Although it doesn't quite end up being as extraordinary as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it hits much more than it misses.
On the Basis of Sex was seen by me at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI on Saturday, January 5, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 120 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some language & suggestive content.