On the Basis of Sex (2019)
Critic Consensus: On the Basis of Sex is nowhere near as groundbreaking as its real-life subject, but her extraordinary life makes a solid case for itself as an inspirational, well-acted biopic.
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Critic Reviews for On the Basis of Sex
The tight focus makes for an engaging, fast-moving legal drama; as with Spielberg at both his best and worst, this is seldom boring.
Taking its cue from Ruth, On the Basis of Sex includes everyone in the equation. Mothers - and fathers! - should take their brainy kids to see it.
Director [Mimi] Leder deserves credit for making a technical and abstruse court case so involving.
There was too much riding on Ginsburg's ideals, and her causes, for their treatment to be quite this cute.
We know or guess the story's outcome even if we are non-Americans. No one today will make a film about a woman failing to make her mark on history. But this tale is well told...
Audience Reviews for On the Basis of Sex
While this film may be well intentioned, it is formulaic and simplified to a fault, with a sense of self-importance that makes it sound cliched even when telling something that is true, so you may as well just skip it and go for the much superior RBG documentary instead.
Given the high-profile treatment of a popular documentary and an awards-bait caliber feature, you'd be forgiven for thinking that people either thought justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was due for recognition or was about to die. On the Basis of Sex takes more than a few nods from 2012's Lincoln, showcasing its subject trying to pass key reforms/legislation as a means of better insight into his or her lasting legacy. To that end the film is a success. It's an intelligent legal procedural taking time to find judicial footholds, craft compelling arguments, and the back-and-forth challenges of overturning hundreds of years of precedent that viewed women as essentially lesser. If you enjoy rhetorical debates on legal minutia, this might be the movie for you. However, if you wanted to get a better understanding of Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) the person, then you're out of luck. She's more or less the vessel for social justice and the film keeps her more as a lionized symbol for change than as a person. Her frustrations, such as being denied the same opportunities as men, are meant to serve as a reminder of the frustrations of the many. There are a handful of scenes with dismissive, doddering middle-aged men that feel too stagy, and yet I'm sure that these same curt comments and patronizing behaviors were a daily affair (and still are). Jones doesn't feel like she has a full grasp on the character beyond as symbol (her Brooklyn accent is a bit slippery as well). You also get to process the reality of Ginsburg as a sexual being as she initiates PG-13 sex with her supportive husband (Armie Hammer). It's kind of like thinking about your parents having sex. On the Basis of Sex feels a bit, ironically enough, too old-fashioned. It's got dramatic courtroom showdowns, including an eleventh hour speech, and all the old Oscar bait tropes we'd expect from this sort of movie. It plays to every expectation of its audience. Beyond learning about the legal arguments, there's nothing new or insightful here. Stick with the RBG documentary and hear the same stories from the real deal herself. Nate's Grade: B-
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