On the Basis of Sex (2019)

TOMATOMETER

Critic Consensus: On the Basis of Sex is nowhere near as groundbreaking as its real-life subject, but her extraordinary life makes a solid case for itself as an inspirational, well-acted biopic.

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Movie Info

The film tells an inspiring and spirited true story that follows young lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she teams with her husband Marty to bring a groundbreaking case before the U.S. Court of Appeals and overturn a century of gender discrimination. The feature will premiere in 2018 in line with Justice Ginsburg's 25th anniversary on the Supreme Court.

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Cast

Felicity Jones
as Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Armie Hammer
as Marty Ginsburg
Kathy Bates
as Dorothy Kenyon
Sam Waterston
as Erwin Griswold
Jack Reynor
as Jim Bozarth
Cailee Spaeny
as Jane Ginsburg
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Critic Reviews for On the Basis of Sex

All Critics (189) | Top Critics (37)

The formulaic film doesn't carry enough heft for consideration as a must-see Oscar contender.

Jan 8, 2019 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

As a trailblazing figure, Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves a knockout biopic about her life. Instead she gets... a serviceable, but by no means extraordinary origin story of a pre-Supreme Court RBG as she begins to shape her legacy.

Jan 4, 2019 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

We are invited by the filmmakers to regard Ginsburg as a saint in the making who also happens to be a real person. It's the kind of "tribute" that is actually a disservice because it flattens out a complex human being.

Jan 4, 2019 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

A rather broad biopic, but it beautifully argues the importance of Ginsburg's work - prior to the Supreme Court - and is a lovely tribute to the woman who would become the Notorious RBG.

Dec 28, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4

Mostly the film, directed by Mimi Leder, takes its cues not from real life but from film clichés.

Dec 28, 2018 | Full Review…

"On the Basis of Sex" is dutiful Classics Illustrated filmmaking, with the villains easy to spot, the goal distant but obtainable, and an 11th-hour speech that just may save the day.

Dec 27, 2018 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for On the Basis of Sex

½

Given the high-profile treatment of a popular documentary and an awards-bait caliber feature, you'd be forgiven for thinking that people either thought justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was due for recognition or was about to die. On the Basis of Sex takes more than a few nods from 2012's Lincoln, showcasing its subject trying to pass key reforms/legislation as a means of better insight into his or her lasting legacy. To that end the film is a success. It's an intelligent legal procedural taking time to find judicial footholds, craft compelling arguments, and the back-and-forth challenges of overturning hundreds of years of precedent that viewed women as essentially lesser. If you enjoy rhetorical debates on legal minutia, this might be the movie for you. However, if you wanted to get a better understanding of Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) the person, then you're out of luck. She's more or less the vessel for social justice and the film keeps her more as a lionized symbol for change than as a person. Her frustrations, such as being denied the same opportunities as men, are meant to serve as a reminder of the frustrations of the many. There are a handful of scenes with dismissive, doddering middle-aged men that feel too stagy, and yet I'm sure that these same curt comments and patronizing behaviors were a daily affair (and still are). Jones doesn't feel like she has a full grasp on the character beyond as symbol (her Brooklyn accent is a bit slippery as well). You also get to process the reality of Ginsburg as a sexual being as she initiates PG-13 sex with her supportive husband (Armie Hammer). It's kind of like thinking about your parents having sex. On the Basis of Sex feels a bit, ironically enough, too old-fashioned. It's got dramatic courtroom showdowns, including an eleventh hour speech, and all the old Oscar bait tropes we'd expect from this sort of movie. It plays to every expectation of its audience. Beyond learning about the legal arguments, there's nothing new or insightful here. Stick with the RBG documentary and hear the same stories from the real deal herself. Nate's Grade: B-

Nate Zoebl
Nate Zoebl

Super Reviewer

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