"she's had a profound impact on the world, so with only a few tweaks this film could have done her justice"
It's about time the "Notorious R.B.G." got the biopic treatment. A real shame that despite solid performances it doesn't come close to the badassery associated with the letters R-B-G.
In case you don't know what R.B.G. stands for, this is the well known abbreviation for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, in recent years, has become a pop culture phenomenon. Only the second woman ever to be nominated to the US Supreme Court - where she served as the only female judge until Sotomayor was appointed - an advocate for equality and women's rights, infamously portrayed by the impeccable Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Life and one of the most well known people holding office in the United States – R.B.G. even has her own hashtag. And here we finally have her story in movie form.
With a solid performance by Felicity Jones as R.B.G., On The Basis Of Sex immediately greets the viewer with the apparent misogyny of post WW2 America. Not that it's much different today but that's a whole 'nother can of worms and makes this film a rather timely piece despite its dated setting. Ruth is one of only nine women accepted to Harvard Law School, where her husband Marty also studies Law.
The rampant sexism and inequality isn't even the worst Ruth has to deal with. Issues arise with her husband and all of a sudden she has double the work load while looking after hubby and baby. In short, not everyone would have been able to cope, but this is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the undeterred warrior and epitome of badassery we know, so it's no surprise that Ruth is invested to remedy the situation. She famously fought for gender equality and took this and more before the Supreme Court and On The Basis Of Sex tells the story of her struggle to overturn over a century of sexual discrimination.
Like most biopics On The Basis Of Sex falls into the trap of checking off bullet points of important events in the life of our protagonist, showing you all the stepping stones so you understand where she eventually ends up. It makes for dreary storytelling with heavy pacing issues that even the captivating and charming Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer (playing Ruth's husband Marty) cannot fully make up for.
Worth mentioning is Kathy Bates as Dorothy Kenyon, a lawyer and activist Ruth contacts during the proceedings as well as Justin Theroux as Mel Wulf, a lawyer for the ACLU who helps Ruth with her case. Overall a great cast that would have deserved a spunkier script, worthy of the world-changing people it's trying to depict. If only the film had half as much fighting spirit as its protagonist this would have been an electrifying and entertaining piece of cinema, worth recommending not just to women studies majors.
As interesting as it is to learn about the Notorious R.B.G. I couldn't help but feel let down by the narrative structure, especially the ending, which in my opinion wasted a huge opportunity to go out with a poignant bang (I won't spoil it for you). That is not to say the film is a waste of time. There are plenty of moments of greatness and entertainment, which made me wish even more that the rest was more coherent, well paced material to make for a good film. But overall I couldn't help but feel disappointed, let down by a film that could easily have hit home on the epic awesomeness R.B.G is known for.
I'm a huge fan of this brilliant woman, who has fought and achieved so much, she's had a profound impact on the world, so with only a few tweaks this film could have done her justice.