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Felicity Jones Relives the Roots of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Wisdom in 'On the Basis of Sex'

5 years ago

On the Basis of Sex PosterTwo films released in 2018 told the gigantic story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

You betcha she deserves it.

On the Basis of Sex goes full Hollywood for the telling of the formative years of the woman from Brooklyn who with undeniable and relentless intelligence and determination was able to change American law, American thinking and the American way of life.

This 2-hour drama, directed by Mimi Leder from a screenplay by Daniel Stapleman, introduces us to Bader Ginsburg as she strides up the steps of Harvard Law, ready for an encounter with that storied institution as one of nine women admitted to her class. The dean at that welcoming dinner is a jerk who doesn’t quite know it, demonstrating what awaits by asking each why they were occupying space that could have gone to a man.

Bader Ginsburg quickly gets his number, replying that she just wants to be a good wife to husband Martin, who’s attending Harvard Law a year ahead of her. Get to know the ins and out, you know?

Oh, so much more than that was their relationship, as Ruth attends both of their classes when Martin falls seriously ill. Harvard’s leadership again shows its colors, too, refusing an important Bader Ginsburg request that forces her to earn her law degree from Columbia.

So the battle versus the male dominated society goes, with sharp tax attorney Martin always on her side ...

On the Basis of Sex wide2(Photos from

Felicity Jones is indeed a star shining as Bader Ginsburg, full of complexity as she fights not only the stacked system but also the battle within her as their children grow older and daughter Jane clues into a woman’s rights movement that’s quite different from her own. Jones does a good job ditching her British accent, yes, but doesn’t quite get down Bader Ginsburg’s Brooklyn way of expressing herself.

Armie Hammer stands solid as smart and supportive Martin, a man who knows he’s got his match and someone who deserves quite more than society is willing to hand over to her at the moment.

Their chemistry seems real.

As does her turmoil with society that deals her a job teaching law at Rutgers instead of practicing it with a firm. Then she must suss out how to handle higher-up attorneys who insist her approach in her first big case is wrong and suggest a settlement is the best route, and judges that frown down at her from the bench on mere historical reflex.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg decides to fight on.

America wins with her.

Central New Yorkers can view On the Basis of Sex free as part of the Liverpool Public Library’s Newly Released Movie series. The offsite program runs at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, at Salina Library. On the Basis of Sex is part of the LPL's MediaBank collection