By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
“On the Basis of Sex,”
the new biopic about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
arrives on the heels of last year’s critically acclaimed documentary “ RBG.” They are excellent companion features.
Directed by Mimi Leder (“The Leftovers”), “On the Basis of Sex” chronicles the early accomplishments (1950s-1970s) of Ginsburg who is played with a fine and determined fierceness by Felicity Jones ( “The Theory of Everything” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”).
It’s 1956 and Ginsburg the crusader in the making, is making waves and a name for herself as a student at Harvard Law School. Ginsburg is one of only nine women in a class of 500 which also includes her loyal, tax-attorney husband Marty (a wonderful Armie Hammer, “Sorry to Bother You”).
Ruth realizes early the barriers and sexism that she and other aspiring women lawyers will be confronted with from colleagues and professors (Stephen Root, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”).
In fact, while attending a dinner party hosted by crusty Harvard Dean Erwin Griswold (a fabulous Sam Waterston, “Miss Sloane”), the female students are crudely asked why they’ve decided to attend Harvard since their academic seats could have gone to “Harvard Men.”
Moments like that coupled with Ginsburg’s intuitiveness and drive made her a strong advocate for equal rights among women. Yet, even after being first in her class, Ginsburg is unable to find work at New York law firms.
Consequently, she begins teaching law at Rutgers University and at Columbia even while caring for her husband who has testicular cancer.
In addition to her parenting and teaching obligations, Ginsburg is intrigued by a sex-discrimination case that involves an unmarried Colorado man named Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey, “Gotti”). He’s caring for his ailing mother but is denied a tax-deduction based on an old law that says only women can be considered primary care givers.
Not so fast says Ginsburg. She files a brief with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and gets additional help on the case from other legal eagles and activists like Dorothy Kenyon (Kathy Bates, TV’s “American Horror Story”) and American Civil Liberties Union Director Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux, “Bumblebee”).
The 1972 case, “Moritz v. Commissioner of the IRS,” had far-reaching implications and made it to the Supreme Court. Ginsburg won the case which ultimately helped define her legal legacy and paved the way to her appointment to the Supreme Court.
Strange title aside, “On the Basis of Sex” is a fascinating and inspiring film. Jones sells the role as Ginsburg with pure conviction and Hammer is equally compelling as the compassionate and understanding husband.
Cailee Spaeny (“Pacific Rim: Uprising”) delivers too as Ginsburg’s feisty, teen daughter Jane.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Take A Look At This Trailer For "ON THE BASIS OF SEX"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC), The Alliance Of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.