Is there a figure more beloved to the American Left today than Ruth Bader Ginsburg? The longtime Supreme Court Justice has led a rather impressive life, so why not make a movie about her?
Well, we got one now with On the Basis of Sex.
The movie opens in 1956 as Ruth Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), already married with a baby daughter, starts Harvard Law School. She’s hard-working, exceptionally smart, and exposed to all manner of sex discrimination. She does have an incredibly supportive husband in Marty (Armie Hammer), and one thing the movie makes clear that while this is Ruth’s story, the two greatly supported each other throughout their lives together. They take carer of each other and have an overall sweet relationship as equal partners in many ways.
That said, even as someone who graduated from the top of her law class, Ruth can’t get a job for any law firm when she finishes school due to the whole “being a woman” thing and ends up teaching law instead while Marty becomes a top notch tax attorney. And then in 1970 a case falls into Ruth’s lap, one that she can use to really make a mark for herself, involving sexual discrimination in tax law. However, Ruth has never tried a case in any court before. Even with Marty’s help, can she prevail in court?
Director Mimi Leder’s movie is fine, though at times it does feel very much like a movie. Things sometimes seem a little convenient in its plotting. Both Jones and Hammer give good and likable performances, but the beats of the story are very familiar with especially glaring moments like how, on multiple occasions, Ruth will realize something and then just pause and stand still for a moment while she thinks it over. Stuff like that seems too dramatically convenient. I will give special props to Justin Theroux as ACLU attorney Mel Wulf, someone who is ostensibly on Ruth’s side but never really seems like he is, and is by far the most eccentric character in the movie. That said, I did find the movie engrossing and enjoyed it quite a bit, though now I want to ask my lawyer friends what they think of a certain famous lawyer name-dropped in the movie. 8.5 out of 10 restraining hands at key moments.