In a nice companion piece to the excellent documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, RBG, released earlier this year, On the Basis of Sex presents an inspiring biopic of the young RBG. Felicity Jones plays Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder’s drama, in which the future Supreme Court Justice battles sexism in an era when discrimination on the basis of sex was perfectly legal.
On the Basis of Sex is not a subtle film but it is a crowd-pleaser, with the resourceful RBG fighting her own battle against sex discrimination and then taking on the legal fight for other women as well. The script for director Mimi Leder’s uplifting if conventional drama was written by Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman. The story focuses on the remarkable partnership between RBG and her husband Martin (Armie Hammer), who supported and encouraged his brilliant wife’s career ambitions, as much as the judge herself.
The film begins with Ginsburg’s first year at Harvard law school, where she was one of only nine women admitted. At a welcome dinner with the dean, each of the women is called on to explain why she should be given a spot in the law class, a spot that otherwise would go to a man. The blunt sexism is breathtaking to modern ears but was common place at that time.
The film follows the Ginsburgs as they weather personal challenges and Ruth grapples with workplace discrimination, and then Ruth’s groundbreaking work with the ACLU on civil rights for women. It is rousing stuff, sure to further increase our admiration for RBG.