#REVIEW: “ON THE BASIS OF SEX”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
There is no larger judicial rock star currently out there than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only is she lampooned lovingly on Saturday Night Live, she also made Stephen Colbert sweat alongside her during her daily workout regime and was tough enough to go to work the next day after fracturing three ribs due to a fall in November. Currently, she is recuperating from lung cancer surgery and now the subject matter of one of this year’s best Documentaries, RBG. ON THE BASIS OF SEX is a dramatic interpretation of her early years before she was appointed to the Supreme Court.
We first see an already married Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) with a baby daughter, a skirt and high heels in a sea of dark business suits and lace-up shoes, on her first day attending Harvard Law School. It is very quickly established that women were not really taken seriously as potential lawyers, especially at a dinner party hosted by the dean of the school (an officious Sam Waterson). He asks the women there if they felt guilty for taking a place in the class away from a man. In typical Hollywood Biopic fashion, ON THE BASIS OF SEX hits all its marks: Ginsburg‘s inability to find a job as a lawyer despite graduating from Columbia (after leaving Harvard) tied for first place to teaching at Rutgers and finally her landmark sex discrimination case working with the ACLU which she presented and argued in front of the Supreme Court. It’s all very brisk-paced and fascinating, with Felicity Jones doing everything she can to make it engrossing. She however is somehow too serious and dour, whereas we know the real Ginsburg for her shining personality and humour. Jones’ performance as a result is overshadowed by her Co-Stars.
Playing her husband Marty, Armie Hammer gives an exemplary performance. In what is essentially a thankless role of the supporting and loving husband, Hammer brings gravitas and humour; even small bits like him making the family dinner so his wife could concentrate on her work are executed brilliantly. Cailee Spaeny as their teenaged daughter delivers some excellent work. A budding Feminist, the scenes between mother and daughter, where she questions the choices and arguments that her mom espouses, crackle with charisma. In smaller roles, Kathy Bates, Justin Theroux and Chris Mulkey register beautifully and memorably.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX works extremely well when portraying the gender biases of a not so distance past. Younger audiences may be shocked to see the prejudices their mothers and grandmothers may have experienced growing up. Minor issues aside, this Movie should be on your must-see list this year.
Universal Pictures Canada release ON THE BASIS OF SEX, in theatres now.