On the Basis of Sex – A Movie Review

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It took The Cinnamon Girl and I way too long to get to On the Basis of Sex. Way too long. When we got to see it a few weeks back before the Academy Awards, we looked at each other and said “why did we wait so long?”

Felicity Jones is marvelous cast as Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an absolute, real life hero whose story is being told while she is still with us. That’s a rarity and a blessing to be sure. Jones’ Ginsberg is just what one wants in a hero: determined, uncompromising, compassionate, loyal and incredibly smart. She will likely make a career out of playing such roles and she should. She is self assured in her choices and her work in On the Basis of Sex is terrific.

Jones is clearly the lead here and the movie depends entirely on her performance. Thankfully, it is spectacular.

She is ably supported by a strong cast. Armie Hammer, who I find terrific and just one break away from being a superstar, takes not one ounce of the spotlight away from Jones as Martin Ginsberg, Bader Ginsberg’s husband. Theirs is a well-drawn, devoted relationship and one that forms a terrific backdrop to the themes of the film. It is not a stereotypical marriage that one might expect of the era in which the movie occurs, rather the challenges the Bader Ginsberg faces as she inches ever closer to the glass ceiling are played out delicately and believably within her relationship with Martin and Hammer is perfect in the role.

Also important though, perhaps, a bit more one note, is Cailee Spaeny as Jane Ginsberg, who has come of age watching her mother approach but never quite tap on the above mentioned ceiling. The mother-daughter dynamics are by-the-book, but they work in the overall context of the movie and Spaeny’s Jane is a critical part of keeping the themes moving forward.

Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates and the ever terrific Sam Waterston are excellent in their roles as well and director Mimi Leder keeps the entire movie on pace and builds in enough suspense to keep the audience engaged until the final scene.

Having not yet watched the CNN documentary about RBG, I can only hope On the Basis of Sex is a realistic account of the woman’s early life because it is an inspiring one.

ON THE BASIS OF SEX receives FOUR and a HALF REAL LIFE HEROES out of a possible FIVE


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