On the Basis of Sex


In 1956, Ruth Bader Ginsberg was one of only nine women allowed to enroll in that bastion of white male dominance, Harvard Law School, and there were about 500 men in that class. Her fight for acceptance in this man’s world would be the first of many battles the smart and determined young woman, also a wife and mother, would face before making the case against discrimination “On the Basis of Sex.”


Laura's Review: C

In the 1990s, Mimi Leder was responsible for big budget films "The Peacemaker" and "Deep Impact," but when "Pay It Forward was released in 2000, the female director was thrown into movie jail. She's worked in television in the ensuing years, recently doing great work with HBO's trippy series 'The Leftovers.' Now, with 2018's second cinematic treatment of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Leder returns to the big screen with an effort that feels intended for the small screen. While it tells a great story, that of how Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) fought a patriarchal system to get her day arguing before the Supreme Court, "On the Basis of Sex" feels like a Lifetime movie. The first screenplay from Ginsburg's nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, charts his aunt's grudging acceptance at Harvard where her professor Erwin Griswold (Sam Waterson) believed female students were taking spots away from men and her insane workload when her husband Marty (Armie Hammer) battled testicular cancer (she attended law classes for both of them while also caring for a newborn). Unable to procure a job in her chosen profession in New York City despite her prestigious degree and class ranking, Ruth was forced to teach. Then one day she heard about a case that discriminated on the basis of sex and with the encouragement of her husband and colleague Mel Wulf (Justin Theroux) staked her future as an equality crusader on it. Ironically the person being discriminated against was a man. While some of the scenes work, others, such as Ruth's visit to idol Dorthy Kenyon (Kathy Bates) with her rebellious teenaged daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny) in tow are corny. But the film's main problem is Jones. With the Notorious RBG's stock never higher, any portrayal of the legendary justice is bound to come under meticulous scrutiny and Jones is never able to disappear into the role (Natalie Portman was originally cast and the missed opportunity is sorely felt). The film's biggest asset is Hammer, charming and supportive as Ginsburg's late husband. Grade: