The structure seems to have been built around what it should have been, rather than what it is
In the United Kingdom, American Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a largely unknown figure, at least until this year when documentary RBG made the headlines with its Oscar nomination. However, director Mimi Leder’s first feature film for 9 years gives Bader Ginsburg worldwide elevation, showcasing just how vital her work was, and still is, for women’s rights everywhere.
Focusing on her early life, On The Basis Of Sex takes Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s (Felicity Jones) time at university, her first cases, and life at home with a husband Martin (Armie Hammer) and a young child. Struggling to show her worth, largely due to her position as a woman, Bader Ginsburg fights relentlessly for what she believes is right, whatever may be standing in her way.
Yet On The Basis Of Sex is a surprisingly mediocre drama, and the incredible nature of RBG’s story absolutely overpowers Mimi Leder’s work, leaving behind a coherent film, but one that doesn’t match its story. There seems to be a lack of power found within the story, however inspiring it actually is, instead focusing on Bader’s personality. Her story is her personality, and that leaves On The Basis Of Sex feeling as if it’s missed its mark.
That isn’t to suggest that the feature comes with no positives, both Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer are excellent in their roles, but their ceiling is relatively low for how far they could take their performances, and what they could get from them. There is just no cutting edge to the piece, and that leaves it trailing in the wake of the RBG documentary and other films with a similar sentiment.
It’s attempts to discover what turned RBG into the woman she currently lives as, is particularly admirable, but that doesn’t mean it was the correct decision. RBG’s rise to fame very much came late in her life, and that seems to be the ending point for On The Basis Of Sex, rather than a pivotal moment in the film. The structure seems to have been built around what it should have been, rather than what it is.
Flawed, but manageable, On The Basis Of Sex is a film that very much focuses the wrong part of its greater message. It still stands as a good telling of RBG’s life, but not an assured nor a complete one. Combine it with RBG however, and the double bill may well supply all of the information needed to complete an understanding, without sitting offensive, repetitive, or unneeded.
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