On the Basis of Sex: Film Review

A lot of people over here won’t have a clue who Ruth Bader Ginsburg is, which is exactly why they should check out the biopic On the Basis of Sex and find out about this formidable, trailblazing woman, who won a landmark case which helped change many US laws which discriminated on the basis of gender.

The film begins when Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) starts Harvard Law School in the 1950s, when she is one of only nine women in her class. Despite finishing top in college, no law firms want to hire her. Then one day her husband, tax lawyer Marty (Armie Hammer), shows her a case in which a man, who looks after his sick mother, has been denied a caregiver tax deduction purely because he is a male bachelor. She sees this as a way to challenge all gender discrimination laws and takes this to court even when people keep convincing her she will lose.

I’ve always thought Jones was a fantastic actress – and I still maintain she should have won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Theory of Everything – and she is sensational here. Ginsburg is a tough, headstrong woman ready to take on the world and make big changes but has so many hurdles in the way. She is determined, strong and I was with her all the way. Her Brooklyn accent seemed to come and go on occasion but otherwise she was excellent. Her end speech was incredibly moving.

I don’t go much on Hammer but it was so nice to see an onscreen husband who is happy to share the housekeeping duties with his wife. He was supportive all the way, never holding her back or being jealous of her success. It was wonderful and refreshing to see.

There is a huge support cast, including Cailee Spaeny as their daughter Jane (they also had a boy named James), Justin Theroux as Mel Wulf, a lawyer with the ACLU, and Kathy Bates as Dorothy Kenyon, a lawyer who previously failed to overturn the discrimination law.

This came out in the US ages ago and received mixed reviews but I really liked it. I thought the screenplay was strong and inspiring, even though I couldn’t always follow the legal jargon. Ginsburg did so much for women and created change when the men around her told her she would fail. I was championing her going “go on girl, you got this” under my breath during the appeals hearing. The final shot of the film brought a tear to my eye.

I can appreciate that this is a very feminist film and therefore will not appeal to everyone but it is an insightful and brilliant biopic about an important women in US legal history – she became the first woman on the US Supreme Court – and her story should be known. Equally, you could watch the new documentary RBG.

In cinemas from Friday 22nd February 

Rating: 4/5

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