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“On the Basis of Sex”: More than just a tribute

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“On the Basis of Sex”: More than just a tribute

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones was one of few women at Harvard Law School.

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones was one of few women at Harvard Law School.

Photo courtesy of Focus Films

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones was one of few women at Harvard Law School.

Photo courtesy of Focus Films

Photo courtesy of Focus Films

The role of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones was one of few women at Harvard Law School.

Naomi Gould, Guest Writer

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It’s hard to believe that the spark that ignited the fire of the fight for gender equality was a man’s tax case. The entertaining film “On the Basis of Sex” not only explains this historical phenomenon but the importance of the feminist movement as a whole.

This film focuses on the early section of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s career, unlike the documentary “RBG,” released earlier this year, which focuses on her life as a whole. With a script by Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman and a convincing performance by Felicity Jones, anyone interested in Ginsburg, or just a good movie, should be sure to see this film.

The movie begins with Ginsburg’s chronic underestimation by her male peers due to her gender. After being top of her class at Harvard Law School (where she’s one of only nine women), she is rejected from 13 law firms and becomes a professor at Rutgers Law School. During these early career struggles, Ginsburg also clashes with her teenage daughter, Jane, adding complexity to her character and to the movie’s themes.

Ginsburg gets her first opportunity to argue in court from her husband, Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer): a tax case about a man denied a caregiver tax deduction, clearly because of his gender. This set Ginsburg down a path to tackle laws discriminating on the basis of sex, a path she would return to throughout her career

The partnership between Ginsburg and her husband is lovely to watch and lightens the weight of an otherwise serious movie. Jones and Hammer connect well on screen, and though Jones, a British actress, sometimes hits the Brooklyn accent too hard, she accurately portrays Ginsburg’s authority, confidence in her smarts and slight social insecurity.

Don’t be fooled; this is no documentary or a dull historical narrative.  Director Mimi Leder effectively shows Ginsburg’s influential role in fighting gender bias and places emphasis on the feminist movement.

The movie shows that the obstacles Ginsburg faced often came from her closest male friends, a struggle that is still relevant today. This emphasized that sexism can be found in our culture in places that we may not be conscious of. Additionally, that her case attacked gender discrimination negatively affecting a man addresses the dangers of toxic masculinity, creating a well-rounded representation of the importance of feminism.

Despite its complex message, “On the Basis of Sex” sticks to the typical underdog story arc, making the movie feel predictable and generic. The feel-good nature of Ginsburg’s marriage and the way Leder captures the audience’s interest in the case, however, keeps everyone engaged.

According to the real Ginsburg, the one incorrect moment in the movie is her loss for words when beginning her opening speech. Though it’s just Hollywood dramatization, knowing that it’s false is a misstep.

The entire movie is spent building up Ginsburg to be a strong lawyer who must overcome the doubts of even her allies. So, a confident speech would have benefited character development and the empowering tone of the movie. However, the scene toyed with everyone’s hearts, so, while annoying, the cliches further engaged the audience and helped make the movie more entertaining.

As a whole, “On the Basis of Sex,” shows the significance of Justice Ginsburg’s work and early career, and the importance of the feminist movement. Despite its gravity and predictability, Jones enables the audience to invest its emotions in Ginsburg’s struggles, allowing everyone to remain engaged.

Anyone can enjoy this movie even if they’re not interested in the history if they like to see political films, an on-screen romance or a good underdog story. Not only a proper tribute to Ginsburg’s work, as the documentary “RBG” was earlier this year, but this biopic is also a piece that’s still deeply relevant to today’s culture and deserves a watch.

 

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