Landon Roberts, Contributing Writer
Ruth Bader Ginsburg has dedicated her life to the fight for equal rights. The obstacle of sex-based discrimination she had to endure along with the triumphs she achieved is a story that should be told for years to come. However, “On the Basis of Sex” is a one-note look at Ginsburg’s complex life.
The Biopic has advertised itself as what Ginsburg had to overcome to become a female U.S. Supreme Court justice. However, much of what’s actually presented is her early career as a Harvard Law School student and journey toward the first trial she was involved in regarding sex-based discrimination.
This is where “On The Basis of Sex” truly falters. The two-hour run time is completely segmented in half by these two aspects, leaving no room to take a deep dive into the many of threads presented.
This all leads to a story that is completely base level. Aspects presented like the relationship between Ginsburg and her daughter lead to an interesting and provocative foil to how the feminist movement has evolved. But this segment is far too easily resolved in favor to move the courtroom drama story forward.
While the courtroom drama portion is quite thrilling and intriguing, it is far too short, and it never truly presents the gravitas of the case. The stakes are only presented 20 minutes before the actual courtroom scene, leading to another rushed, unfulfilled storyline.
The main reason for this is the hour spent on her schooling career. It does present all the sexism she endured, but it’s an issue of pacing. This half could have been cut down a bit, which would have lead to a better transition into her professional career while also leaving more time for story threads to be fleshed out.
With all the issues with the pacing and script out of the way the film really excels through its performances. Felicity Jones portrays Ginsburg with so much vigor and tenacity. Showing the power of Ginsburg’s words is a feat many would not be able to achieve, but Jones’ delivery of the dialogue is purposeful, leading to some incredibly powerful scenes.
Armie Hammer’s Martin Ginsburg excels, too. His supportive and loving glares portray a man that is both sympathetic and cautious. His support shines through his demeanor and his actions show a man who really believes in what his wife is doing.
While Hammer’s performance is great, some scenes come off as melodramatic because of his facial acting.
Justin Theroux steals the show with his performance as ACLU director Mel Wulf. Theroux brings charisma, creating moments of levity. He is also the catalyst of fantastic dramatic moments, bringing some much-needed depth to an otherwise basic script.
Director MiMi Leder was able to bring out these great performances, but the actual camera movement and cinematography was by-the-numbers. Many of the scenes could have been more impactful with better direction. The set pieces felt incredibly stale and one-note, giving the film a “made for TV” aesthetic.
The aesthetic and weak script could not be saved by the great performances. While “On the Basis of Sex” brings forward Ginsburg’s incredible journey, the focus on what makes her a powerhouse in the women’s movement is lost in the jumbled pacing.