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There’s a bit of ham and cheese in this forthright, likable biopic celebrating the early career of legendary lawyer and supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The director is Mimi Leder, experienced in socking over the action in pictures such as The Peacemaker (1997) and Deep Impact (1998) and efficiently dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of every scene in her work on TV shows such as The West Wing and ER.
Well, by-the-numbers this might be, but it’s watchable and sympathetic, with Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer sweetly idealistic in the youthful roles of Ruth and her devoted husband, Martin.
As a young woman, Ruth gets patronised at Harvard Law School by male professors who are virtually obese with self-congratulation; there is a horribly authentic-looking scene in which new women students are humiliated by the dean (Sam Waterston) at a special dinner given allegedly in their honour. She finally has to leave for Columbia Law School, unable to take a Harvard degree, due to family pressures (she is already married with a small child) and the dean finds a way to render invalid those precedents Ruth has found, which show that male students in similar circumstances had been allowed to graduate from that university.
In New York, finding a job as a practising lawyer is almost impossible. “A woman and a mother and a Jew to boot!” says one interviewer. So Ruth must content herself with an academic position, and searches for the key case that will crack open the edifice of male privilege and sex discrimination. Shrewdly, she finds it in the case of a wronged man: Charles M Moritz, looking after his ageing mother but refused the right to deduct the cost of hiring a nurse against tax because he was a man, and crucially unmarried. It was sex discrimination, pure and simple.
Subtlety isn’t this movie’s strong suit and it’s often needlessly chary about drawing the parallel between sexism and racism. But it’s got a worthwhile story to tell.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: On the Basis of Sex review – Ruth Bader Ginsburg starts her ascent | On the Basis of Sex