When your childhood dreams of changing the world are shattered on the rock that is reality, you may become lost as to when it makes sense to fight and when it doesn’t. Bringing back the fighting spark, On the Basis of Sex reminds the child inside you that there may be a chance you can change the world.
On the Basis of Sex is a biopic that follows Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), a striving lawyer in the 1950s, fresh out of law school with no firm to take her. After reluctantly accepting a professor job, Ginsburg slowly but steadily follows her true passion of pursuing equality of men and women. Ginsburg attempts to prove that more than 174 American laws are unconstitutional by taking a tax case that she claims can act as a precedent to how the law discriminates against men, and later use it to discredit the laws that discriminate against women. Upholding a fight that many of her peers have lost before, Ginsburg has to face the scrutiny of men to prove that the law does discriminate, and break century-old shackles.
The most interesting aspect about the plot is its awareness that it is just a small part of history; the film starts as Ginsburg enters law school and ends before the real impact of her struggles is shown, leaving the audience wanting more. The film builds up to not just the one case Ginsburg is fighting, but also the consequences that will occur if she was to win it. So when the audience doesn’t see that, it is somewhat disappointing.
The plot discusses several pivotal themes that are as relevant now as they were in the 1950s (if not more so). Like women balancing and excelling in both career and family life, the importance of support between spouses, and actually fighting for what one believes is right.
Even though the plot has many compelling moments, it also has several weak points; Ruth’s husband, Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer), is continuously and wholly supportive and charming to a wonderful, but somewhat unrealistic point. If Marty Ginsburg really was this wonderful, then he should get an award for most unbelievably understanding husband ever. Also, the way Ruth is so confident in front of the court, then suddenly not confident, but then magically regains her voice is not very well explained.
The film is very handsomely shot, and the colours balance perfectly between the era and modern-day cinematography.
For the acting, Felicity Jones nailed the smart, tough, struggling lawyer role, and only lacked in the incoherent loss of confidence in front of the court, which was mainly a script issue. Armie Hammer also portrayed his all too perfect role rather perfectly, even if that meant mastering only a handful of expressions.
On the Basis of Sex is worth the watch, especially if you are not familiar with the actual story, because despite its shortcomings, and like its heroine, it calls for much more than surrender.