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On the Basis of Sex

Opening Date
10 Jan 2019
PG13 Brief Coarse Language
120 mins
English with Chinese subtitles
Biography, Drama
Mimi Leder
Felicity Jones, Justin Theroux, Cailee Spaeny, Armie Hammer, Kathy Bates

On the Basis of Sex is inspired by the true story of a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg – then a struggling attorney and new mother – who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights throughout her career.

When Ruth takes on a ground-breaking tax case with her husband, attorney Martin Ginsburg, she knows it could change the direction of her career and the way the courts view gender discrimination. The film also chronicles the storybook-like romance between Ruth and Marty, a partnership that succeeded both personally and professionally.

By Flora  10 Jan 2019
'On the Basis of Sex' is ultimately a celebration of strength from one woman who weathered through a legal crusade to fight for gender equality. 
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On the basis of sex is depicts the ups and downs of a lawyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Felicity Jones) who fought through the gender-biased society and dedicated her life to fighting for gender equality and civil liberties and the world has her to thank for her courage and determination. The film, while traces her rise as a lawyer, focuses more on the build-up of the iconic case of gender discrimination that made history.

It’s hard to fathom that it was only about 70 years ago that female students in Harvard felt like one in a million. When Ruth Bader Ginsberg sat in the Harvard hall in 1956, she was only one of just nine women in the class of 500. The gender bias is clear - from the classrooms to the lectures. She doesn’t get picked to answer the questions, and during a special dinner hosted by Erwin Griswold (Sam Waterston), the dean of the school, the women were asked to stand and say why they deserved a spot at the prestigious school instead of a man. 

When her loving husband was hit with chronic stomach pain, only to reveal that he had cancer, Ruth not only took care of him while he recuperated at home, she attended his classes in addition to hers, assisted in his homework on top of hers, and still manages to top her class. Even if her results were some of the best the country had seen, Ruth found it hard to find a job as her gender becomes the only reason she couldn’t be hired by established law firms. Instead, she took on the role as a professor at Rutgers Law to teach a new batch of aspiring lawyers. 

When she found out about a flaw in the law, she decided to take on the case that no one would - to defend a male caregiver that was not given his right and government support as the law assumes a caregiver has to be a woman. She believed that this will be the case that will set a precedent for other gender discriminating cases. 

Ginsburg’s nephew, first-time screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman attempts to portray the life of his aunt’s journey not only in court but her times at home too. Martin Ginsburg (Armie Hammer) believed that he and his wife were equals in every way, supporting her wholeheartedly throughout her fight with the law, even at times when she exceeded him. At home, he cooked, took good care of the kids as every father and husband should, and never once was jealous of her successes. Neither of them upheld the stereotypical gender roles, all while working together for the same goals. 

Jones effortlessly embodies Ruth Ginsburg, not only with her accent but the nuances of the woman that literally helped shape the world we live in today. She takes on the character with so much heart and sincerity, grit and tenacity. The final few scenes of her in court where she delivered her closing statement was definitely a highlight that the film had been building up to. While Jones, Hammer and Justin Theroux were exceptional, let’s not forget the supporting cast Kathy Bates as Dorothy Kenyon, Sam Waterson as Erwin Griswold and Cailee Spaeny as Jane Ginsburg where they held their own. 

The narrative plays it safe, often feels formulaic like most biopic features. While this 2-hour long movie is ultimately geared towards a feel-good, inspirational story that hopes to inspire and educate its viewers, it is ultimately a celebration of strength from one woman who weathered through a legal crusade that we can be thankful for. 
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