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On The Basis of Sex - Film Review

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by Lloyd Marken (subscribe)
Lloyd Marken is a freelance writer with a passion for the arts who has been published with Scenestr, Heavy, Buzz, X-Press, FilmInk and Weekend Notes. Visit my blog at
On The Basis of Sex Copyright Focus Features, Participant Media, Robert Cort Productions and Alibaba Pictures

If Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a comic book superhero, then the film On The Basis of Sex would be her origin story. Essentially split between two time periods, the film cleverly charts her personal and professional development that would form her later career and fame as a liberal and feminist icon. While not particularly innovative storytelling, the cast and crew go a long way towards involving the audience emotionally.

British actress Felicity Jones stars as the Brooklyn raised lawyer with a pronounced accent and a simmering sense of justice. This is not a performance with specific mannerisms or dramatic flourishes. For the most part, Ginsburg here is not an icon, just a regular woman, keenly intelligent but not always getting the last word which makes it more powerful when she quietly does. This seems deliberate on the part of director Mimi Leder, whose work here is low key and restrained as well. For a story about a landmark case and highly accomplished individuals, Leder makes you care deeply about the Ginsburgs by presenting them as just a regular family trying to raise their kids right and enjoy some success in their chosen professions. It should be noted though, there are some fantastic clothes worn by Jones both for scenes in the late 50s and the ones in the early 70s.

Those who have never been a victim of prejudice may find it hard to believe some of the sexism on display here but it definitely helps you root for the protagonists and understand the importance of their work. There is some nuance on display too, the notorious R.B.G. finds herself fighting a discrimination case on behalf of a man and in opposition to her former professor who actually fought to have women allowed into Harvard Law. If you think Sam Waterston's moment are a bit too boo hiss, ask some older women if they were ever disrespected in the workplace, in fact, ask some now. With this film, we are reminded the fight never stops but step by step and with good people we get a little bit closer.

On The Basis of Sex opens nationwide February 7.
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by Claudia Bianchi on 04/02/2019
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