Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG, has served on the Supreme Court as an Associate Justice for the past few decades. Despite being 85 years old, she continues to fight for gender equality, women’s rights etc. On the Basis of Sex is less about RBG’s biopic but more of her taking on a tax-related case (Moritz vs IRS) because of the case’ underlying assumption that only women are supposed to stay at homes as caregivers while men provide for the family. Moritz, played by Christian Mulkey, is denied tax deductions for looking after his ailing mother because only women were allowed to get tax deductions for the caretaker role. Such sexist remarks are prevalent throughout the movie to remind RBG of her place in society but it’s all the more satisfying and inspiring when she refuses to live by it.
Positives – Felicity Jones has always ever impressed me as a thespian and she is wonderful in this movie. Rather than letting her emotions out, she is quite subdued and her “emotional” scenes are generally “calm” by nature. Her husband Martin Ginsburg, played by Armie Hammer, is also really good in the movie and in many ways, her equal. Jones and Hammer have really good chemistry and it was wonderful seeing the husband supporting his wife to pursue her ambitions in a male-dominated profession. At times, it’s difficult to watch the flick because of the blatant as well as subtle sexist remarks against women but unfortunately, that was the norm in the past and still continues to be a thing. RBG’s frustrations are palpable but even she eventually realized, with some help from her husband and ACLU’s Mel Wulf, that making the issue about gender equality would have cost her the case. She needed to focus on Moritz but at the same time plant seeds of the idea of equal rights for men and women.
Negatives – This is definitely a predictable, paint-by-numbers story. Also, even though it is nice seeing RBG’s feminist daughter being one of the big motivators for RBG, the mother-daughter relationship drama felt a little shoe-horned in and just wasn’t as compelling as the main storyline. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad but it simply isn’t as good as the rest of the movie. Finally, the movie has somewhat of an abrupt ending with no actual resolution to the case, which bothered me a little. But as you can tell, it’s mostly nitpicks.
Overall, On the Basis of Sex is a good movie depicting the struggles Ruth Bader Ginsburg went through to get where she is today and her tenacity to fight for women’s rights. She really is a remarkable figure and worth talking about for generations to come.
Rating – 3.5/5
PS – Check out the documentary ‘RBG’ also released in 2018. It’s worth your time.