Whole lotta love for Ginsburg this year. First a documentary, now a biopic. Hey, this bad-ass chick deserves it.
The movie looks like it’s about Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her early years as a student and a case that ended up putting her on the map.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Felicity Jones (COLLIDE , STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE , and upcoming films THE AERONAUTS  and DRAGON RIDER ) and Armie Hammer (SORRY/YOU , FREE FIRE , NOCTURNAL ANIMALS , THE MAN FROM UNCLE , and upcoming films WOUNDS  and HOTEL MUMBAI ).
In support, we have Justin Theroux (BUMBLEBEE , LEGO NINJAGO , GIRL/TRAIN , and CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE ), Kathy Bates (THE BOSS , MIDNIGHT IN PARIS , and upcoming films THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN  and THE HIGHWAYMEN ), Cailee Spaeny (EL ROYALE ), Jack Reynor (KIN , DETROIT , SING STREET , and the upcoming MIDSOMMER ), and Stephen Root (LIFE/PARTY , GET OUT , MIKE AND DAVE , and the upcoming AGAINST ALL ENEMIES ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Mimi Leder, known for stuff that I’ve either not seen or heard of. Penning the screenplay is Daniel Stiepleman, making his screenplay debut. Congrats, sir. Composing the score is Mychael Danna, known for MAN/CHRISTMAS (2017), STORKS (2016), THE GOOD DINOSAUR (2015), and upcoming films A DOG’S WAY HOME (2019) and THE RED SEA DIVING RESORT (2019). The cinematographer is Michael Grady, known for EASY A (2010). Finally, the editor is Michelle Tesoro, known for 3 episodes of FRINGE (2008 – 2013).
Overall, IMDb’s 5.6/10 (as of 12/19/2018) has me pretty worried, but RottenTomatoes has it at a 79% (as of 12/19/2018), so I’m almost afraid of agreeing with RT. I hate agreeing with RT. They’re so extreme in their love and hate for movies. In any case, I think the movie looks good. With some choice exceptions, likely no fault of her own, Felicity Jones is a pretty reliable talent and I always get a little giddy when I see her attached to something. I don’t know much about Ginsburg, but I look forward to her brand of intensity.
This is my honest opinion of: ON THE BASIS OF SEX
Set between 1956 and 1970. The story follows Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) during her years in school while married to her husband Marty (Armie Hammer) and taking care of their daughter Jane, up to the 1970 case by defending Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey), a man discriminated against for being a man.
Ugh, not even a week since I saw it and I already forgot most of it. Well, time to open the filing cabinet that is my memory and do my best to recollect. At base, raw memory I liked it better than IMDb did, which is uncommon, and more or less agree with RottenTomatoes, which is really uncommon.
Starting off traditionally with the acting, which is great. As I always expect out of Jones, she is a force of nature. Ruth is constantly faced with naysayers and those who don’t give her the time of day with a clever quip, or even simply ignoring them. One of my favorite scenes is when she’s in class, the professor asks a question, and when Ruth and other students raise their hands she’s completely ignored for a minute. It’s not until the men prove how dumb they are that he finally calls on Ruth, who schools everyone and impresses the teacher. That was satisfying.
I especially like the chosen story for Ginsburg. While I’m sure she took many cases in defense of women, I imagine any other movie about a female lawyer would have made it about that. This story is about a woman defending the rights of a man. As far as I know, that’s pretty new. I just assumed that men have all the rights and that no one would need to defend them. Turns out, they do. And even for a courtroom drama, this was pretty easy to follow. Apparently the law states that a caregiver can’t receive… Well, okay, I don’t remember everything, but some kind of legal benefit for a man taking care of his mother who isn’t widowed, or divorced. As in, if he’s never been married he’s not entitled to those benefits, which would be given to a woman. At least, I think I got the bare bones basics down. I might question why Charles didn’t hire a caretaker for his mother, but that’s beside the point. The point is, I’m staggered that American laws were this specific, and if the judges in the eventual court scenes are accurate (I’m assuming they’re not), so set in stone and so unwilling to see reason or change. While I’m sure Ginsburg took many Earth-shattering cases, I’m happy that this was the chosen case as you don’t see men’s rights get trampled very often outside of modern men’s rights activists, who are more akin to children who need a spanking. It’s different, and I like it.
Of course, I can’t ignore Armie Hammer. Yes, the man is ridiculously charming and likeable. He constantly supports Ruth in all of her endeavors, never making any excuses for the men who say stupid shit, and always shares in her outrage. Good guy, provided that this movie depicts him accurately. One of the more stand out scenes is when a teenage June (Cailee Spaeny) is angry with her mom and Marty steps in to explain to June why Ruth is the way she is. It’s a heart-to-heart and a sweet moment between the two characters themselves, but also giving us some nice background on Ruth and her personal life.
But I can’t claim to agree with every narrative choice, so let’s get to the negatives.
Did anyone else think the first twenty minutes felt a little tacked on? For me, it was similar to what was done for BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE, particularly the Batgirl portion, which felt like it was only there to pad out a short run time, and didn’t have much to do with the actual promised story, which would likely have been a forty minute movie on its own. The first twenty some-odd minutes of this film, basically up to when she’s a professor and Marty hands her the case that this movie is about, feels exactly like that. It’s like it was supposed to be just about defending Charles, but the runtime ended up being too short, so they decided to explain more of Ruth’s backstory by showing how and why she became a professor and not a lawyer. Not that the first act is done poorly, but it doesn’t feel like it connects to the rest of the film. Even the whole “Marty has testicular cancer” thing seems to come and go and has no real weight to the story. It’s just information that’s spoon- fed to us over the course of fifteen to twenty minutes.
Overall I think IMDb is wrong about this one. I think this is a pretty good movie. Imperfect, thanks to a seemingly needless first act that doesn’t flow well with the rest of the flick, but still I think this is worth seeing. A moderately high recommendation.
My honest rating for ON THE BASIS OF SEX: 4/5
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