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On the Basis of Sex

Jan 10, 2019

An entertaining docudrama about a living legal icon.

On the Basis of Sex

Grade: A-

Director:  Mimi Leder (Pay It Forward)

Screenplay: Daniel Stiepleman

Cast: Felicity Jones (Inferno), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hr

By: John DeSando

“Women have been losing the same argument for 100 years!” Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Felicity Jones)

Concerning sexual equality, the above quote best expresses the feisty young lawyer, RBG, and her early fight through the courts to overturn a tax code provision that discriminated against men.  Thanks to her husband, Marty (Armie Hammer), who found a discriminatory clause in the code, she was able to fight on behalf of her client and therefore women in their ambition to be equal.

On the Basis of Sex is an entertaining and informative docudrama not only about her early days at Harvard Law and as a mother and professor, but also the daunting task women had of competing with men for professional jobs that were denied them uniformly and openly. To see RBG denied legal job after legal job is almost to feel the anxiety this top-of-her-class graduate endured in finally taking a job as a professor by default.

Her eventual success in the tax case came not in a Hollywood glamorous moment but slowly after grinding research and disappointments in the court room. Anyone in law school should see this carefully crafted drama for the truths it tells about the hard work it was for this diminutive battler. Helping Marty defeat cancer was just another battle the future Supreme Court Justice would fight and eventually win but not easily.

On the Basis of Sex is an old-fashioned courtroom drama about a judicial titan whose life is still inspiring as she approaches its end. “He’s not going to take me seriously,” she says in an early encounter with a judge. We know how that turns out for liberalism’s “Obi Wan Kenobi.”

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com