For our earlier review of On The Basis of Sex, click here.
Synopsis: The film tells an inspiring and spirited true story that follows young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she teams with her husband Marty to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. The feature will premiere in 2018 in line with Justice Ginsburg’s 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, and Justin Theroux
Writer: Daniel Stiepleman
Director: Mimi Leder
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 120mins
The year of Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues (for our review of the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary RBG, click here). Starting as a limited release around Christmas time before now expanding in the middle of January, On The Basis of Sex has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle of awards season. At the end of the day, it is easy to see why. While it did have its moments, the parts far exceeded their sum, arguably earning its designation as Oscar bait but it is much better than that. After the earlier documentary about Ginsburg, perhaps another retelling of her life would be redundant so this film tells her story through the context of her work towards ending gender discrimination.
In terms of biopics, this film followed a rather straightforward structure that should not come as a surprise for anyone. The story plays it safe for the most part which makes it more on the derivative and predictable side. Despite this, the story was compelling to watch and it begins and ends with Ruth (Jones) and her husband Marty (Hammer). Though the film perhaps builds Ruth up in too much of a contrived way, she was such a force here that it was easy to overlook. While it may not bring all that much to the table, the emotional connection it creates was hard to ignore thanks to is incredible score. There may not have been much in the way of stakes as you cannot help but to root for these characters.
It was a shame that the film couldn’t be more about Ruth and Marty than the case at the center of the story. Because of this, it didn’t do either of them justice as the film explored neither character or their relationship with nearly enough depth. Their ultimate trajectory was predictable but it felt like the film moved away from them as the it went on. This was especially the case with Marty who mostly regressed into the supportive husband. We didn’t learn all that much about either of them as the story was more about the case then themselves. Regardless, their chemistry was still the best part of the film. Even though it was a little slow in the middle, they were fun to watch throughout.
The acting was great across the board with both Jones and Hammer being the standouts as Ruth and Marty Ginsburg. Jones was superb and extremely likable here, making us care about Ruth. Her evolution over the course of the film, while predictable, was engaging to watch because of Jones. Hammer did not experience much of an evolution over the course of the film, however, he will always be ridiculously charming and charismatic which he tapped into here. Theroux was good as well in limited screen time as the eccentric ACLU lawyer Mel Wulff.
Overall, On The Basis of Sex may be predictable and it may not bring anything new to the table in terms of biopics but was still compelling to watch while making us care about the characters thanks a pair of great performances by Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer as Ruth and Marty Ginsburg. It was just a shame that the film wasn’t more about them.