ON THE BASIS OF SEX – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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On the Basis of Sex’s hint-of-racy title fronts a just-pretty-okay cinematic experience that coasts on the awesomeness of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I might wish that Sex was, well, sexier — more adventurous, more meaty, more demanding of the viewer and of its terrific cast — but I’ll take this. Coasting on Notorious RBG is some incredible coasting indeed, and the ride here is of the solidly crowd-pleasing variety, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Bader Ginsberg, of course, is now a US Supreme Court justice, but in the years of this movie — from the 1950s through the 1970s — she is a young law student, a university professor, and, once she finds her groove, an activist for gender equality. Her story — written for the screen by her nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, and directed by Mimi Leder — is a familiar David-and-Goliath tale of a dogged outsider battling her way into an entrenched, rigidly conservative system that doesn’t want her. The wonderful Felicity Jones is smartly turned out as the young Bader Ginsberg; she’s already married to fellow Harvard law student Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) as the movie opens. Obscene sexism is the rule at 1950s Harvard Law, where the dean, Erwin Griswold (Sam Waterston), stubbornly continues to talk about “Harvard men” even though there are, in fact, a few women in Bader Ginsburg’s incoming class. Continue reading…

EDITOR’S NOTE: On The Basis of Sex is AWFJ’s Movie of The Week for January 4, 2019
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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).