Monday, December 24, 2018

Movie with Abe: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex
Directed by Mimi Leder
Released December 25, 2018

Movies often pull double duty as history lessons, bringing the past of a famous figure to the masses. Big names can in turn draw big audiences, and while physical resemblance can play a part in casting, makeup and a capturing of the overall essence of a person can compensate. Rarely is what plays out on the screen entirely true to life, and those interested in the subject matter would do well to do further research rather than take what is presented as fact. These films usually take one of two forms: a biopic about a person’s entire life or a more focused excerpt centered on one formative event or accomplishment.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Felicity Jones) begins law school at Harvard as one of just a few women, and soon begins attending the classes her second-year husband Martin (Armie Hammer) is enrolled in when he gets sick. After graduation, Ruth struggles to find a job at a law firm since no one wants to hire a woman and begins work instead as a professor at Rutgers Law School. As the years go by, Ruth’s frustration with not being able to fulfill her potential grows, until she finds the perfect opportunity to make her mark, defending Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey), whose exclusion from a tax exemption for providing nursing care for his ailing mother because he is a man could provide a pathway towards ending legalized gender inequality in the United States.

Anyone paying even minimal attention to what’s going on in this country will be aware that Ruth is now a Supreme Court Justice, and therefore every hurdle she experiences during her early years will eventually lead to greatness and respect from the majority of the population. Ruth is evidently brilliant, and that makes watching men talk down to her and presume what she is capable of all the more agonizing. Her success, once achieved, is gratifying, and the film sets her up for a major victory by stacking everything against her along the way.

Ruth is undeniably a fantastic protagonist, also the subject this year of the likely Oscar-bound documentary “RBG.” Where this film falters in its miscasting of English actress Felicity Jones as Ruth. Her attempt to nail the Brooklyn accent distracts from the effectiveness of her performance. As her extraordinarily supportive husband, Hammer feels like a much more natural fit. Throughout most of its full two-hour runtime, this film acts like the feel-good Christmas movie it’s been marketed as rather than a cohesive biography of a trailblazing lawyer. It finishes strong, however, demonstrating the momentous nature of this case and the incredible contribution to law and gender equality that its subject has made.


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