A review of the film “On The Basis Of Sex”

When veteran US Supreme Court member Ruth Bader Ginsberg died last month aged 87, I quickly accessed and viewed the two films about her released in 2018. First, I saw “RBG”, a fine documentary covering the whole of her life. Then I caught up with “On The Basis Of Sex”, a feature film written by Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman and appropriately enough directed by a woman (Mimi Leder in her first such role in 18 years).

Here (English) Felicity Jones portrays RBG in an account of her life up to her important court victory on a sex discrimation case involving a man. At this point, the film stops, so the viewer never sees ther older RBG on the Supreme Court.

Whereas the documentary includes extracts from recorded interviews with Ginsberg herself, the feature film only shows the real RBG in an uncredited seconds-long appearance at the very end. But Jones gives a fine performance and Ginsberg’s diminutive stature (5′ 1′) is emphasised by casting the uber-tall Arnie Hammer as the husband who provided amazing support. The courtroom sequence is classically dramatic – not so much “Twelve Angry Men” as one determined woman. 

One can hardly rate the two films against one another because of their different styles and I would strongly recommend both. They really complement each other. If the feature film has a weakness, it is that its messages are telegraphed so overtly. So, for instance when Ginsberg and her daughter pass a building site, inevitably they are subjected to wolf-whistles. But this is a minor quibble.

RGB’s contribution to the cause of sexual equality in the United States was outstanding and, if this film brings her record to the attention of more people when the fight is far from over, that is only right and just.

Link: Wikipedia page on Ruth Bader Ginsberg click here


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