On the Basis of Sex

on the basis of sex

By Joanna Langfield

Not every film needs to be a piece of art to make its point. And, while Mimi Leder’s biopic is no piece of art, it does remind us that, even before she became a cultural phenomenon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a national treasure.

Felicity Jones stars as the young law student, balancing family obligations with her trailblazing position as one of the earliest women to attend Harvard Law School. Hers was no easy road. Sexist professors (shame on you, Sam Waterson! Ha) didn’t want her there, but Ruth quickly rose to the top of her class. When her wonderful husband (a lovely Armie Hammer) falls ill, she tends to him and their infant, while attending her own classes as well as his. He gets a job, she transfers to Columbia. He grows in his position, she cannot gain entry into a law firm. This isn’t a theatrically loaded deck, this is the truth and very much the way it was for many women of the time. The film, written by Ginsburg’s nephew, makes sure we remember that time was not so long ago. Artistically, things pick up when Ruth and Marty Ginsburg begin work on a landmark case, involving the legality of sexual equality. Together, and along with colorful allies played by Kathy Bates and Justin Theroux, the team makes not just American law, they also make history.

While the movie begins on a somewhat dutiful note, we all become more engaged by the time Ginsburg enters the Supreme Court to plead her case. Is the film saved by this last act speech? Does it matter? The importance of this piece is its explanation and appreciation of a most remarkable woman’s rise to the top. We find out, in a dramatic form, as opposed to the non-fiction one in the documentary RBG, what she had to do in order to become the Notorious RBG. Let it and her inspire us all.