There can be no question that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has become a full-fledged cultural icon , seemingly always in the news particularly recently with health bouts in which she appears to be the indomitable survivor no matter what is thrown at her. Earlier this year a documentary from Participant Media , RBG , became its distributor Magnolia’s biggest boxoffice hit to date . Now Participant is also behind a narrative “origin” story of the young Ginsburg, On The Basis Of Sex that is set around a landmark sex discrimination case she won early in her career in partnership with her husband Marty. There’s even an action doll of Ruth Bader Ginsburg that has been so popular it completely sold out its first run. As a Christmas gift to true believers in the power of all things RBG , Focus Features unleashes the new film starring Felicity Jones in a spirited portrayal of the future Supreme Court Justice, and Armie Hammer as her husband. The screenplay is close to home since it was written by her nephew Daniel Stiepleman who got her blessing in going ahead with it by replying to his request for approval by saying , “if that’s how you want to spend your time, go ahead”. I am glad that is indeed how he wanted to spend his time as the film , directed by Mimi Leder is entertaining and enlightening, and even though about a complicated court case it thankfully doesn’t manage to get bogged down in a lot of legalese. In fact it is just as much a love story as it is about the rising career of one of America’s greatest legal minds. That is because as we see Ginsburg striving to become a lawyer in an era when being a woman was a detriment to that cause , her husband, a lawyer himself, was incredibly supportive even to the point of being a Mr. Mom , doing the cooking , and taking care of things at home while she pursued her career.
Beyond exploring the warm and winning relationship between Ruth and Marty, the crux of the film’s plot revolves around the 1972 tax case that put Ginsburg in front of the 10th Circuit Court Of Appeals, a case that would be a landmark in law still resonating today involving sex discrimination. Except in this instance it is about a man, Charles Moritz (Chris Mulkey) who claimed a tax deduction for taking care of his incapacitated mother but was denied it on the basis of being a man. The Ginsburg team determined it was the perfect vehicle in which to create precedent for all discrimination cases on the basis of sex, man or woman. Ruth was smart enough to know that in that era simply bringing a similar case involving a woman would not impress the all male appeals court judges. It shows early on how smart a lawyer she was, and quite frankly the courtroom scenes are riveting. Jones is excellent in the title role, especially for this British actress approximating the very particular accent Ginsburg sports. Hammer is a pleasure as Marty, even if he towers over his co-star height-wise. There is a terrific supporting cast involving pros like Kathy Bates and Sam Waterston who turn up in a few scenes, as well as a nice turn by Justin Theroux. Leder, who has had to overcome her own challenges being a successful female director in a profession overwhelmingly dominated by men, brings a certain fire and passion behind the camera. How ironic is it that two films about unlikely major movie subjects – Dick Cheney and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – would be Hollywood fare opening on Christmas Day. Both are worth seeing, with Vice showing the manipulative and sinister power grab by a future U.S. Vice President, and this one about the sheer brilliance and humanity of a future Supreme Court Justice. Producers are Robert Cort and Jonathan King. Check out my video review of On The Basis Of Sex with footage from the film by clicking the link at the top of this post. Also look for my upcoming Top Ten Movies of 2018 with Part 1 running Dec 27th and Part 2 running Dec 31. Happy Holidays.
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