Hot on the heels of the award-winning documentary RBG from filmmakers Julie Cohen, and Betsy West comes this second attempt to capture the extraordinary life of the legendary Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on film.. This dramatised fictionalised movie was scripted by Ginsburg’s nephew newbie writer Daniel Stiepleman and hones in on an early part of her life leading up to her first court case that was the start of her becoming known as a gender equality pioneer.
The action starts in 1956 when Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) is one of only nine women that has been accepted into Harvard Law School that year. She is already married to Marty Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) also a Law student who she had met when they were both studying at Cornell, and they had a baby daughter. When Marty then got a job in NY, Ruth insisted on moving with him, and even though the Dean of Harvard refused to transfer her credits, she enrolled in Columbia University and came top in her class there.
After graduating and clutching her first class degrees and a wad of very impressive recommendations Ginsberg completely failed to get a job in a law office, with the few honest interviewers admitting it was because of her gender. She settled for a teaching job as a professor at Rutgers
One day Marty brought home a Brief from his office that he knew would excite Ruth, and after a lot of too-ing and froing involving the ACLU, they both undertook to take on the case. In Charles E. Moritz v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the couple shrewdly demonstrated that sex discrimination flows in both directions, arguing that a man who had quit his job to take care of his ailing mother ought to qualify for the “caregiver” exemption the IRS had expressly intended only for women.
It was the breakthrough that would then spearhead Ruth’s remarkable career that defined her as a champion of gender equality that would eventually land her in the Supreme Court.
Stiepleman’s script paints a very rosy picture of the Ginsburg’s life together as a picture perfect married couple. His affectionate portrayal of his Aunt lends it a very definite authenticity but also sadly it makes this fascinating story seem painfully dull at times. Jones certainly looked like a young RBG but lacked any hint of the extraordinary women that shined through in the documentary and that we expected to see portrayed here.
The biggest failing of On The Basis of Sex directed by Mimi Leader is that it simply doesn’t do justice to the life of a remarkable woman which was a great shame.