Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex


Emerson Marquez, Opinions Editor

On The Basis of Sex isn’t a widely renowned film, nor is it a widely known film. But, this film has been praised for telling the real life story of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her battle against gender discrimination.

The movie stars Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Armie Hammer as her fiance, Martin David Ginsburg. As Ruth attends her first year at Harvard Law school, her fiance who is a second year at the school is diagnosed with cancer, debilitating him to a point where he is unable to attend his classes. So. Ruth attends his classes for him, while also caring for their newborn infant daughter, Jane. On top of this, she faces stubborn and often sexist professors which in turn, makes her work harder. When her fiance takes a job in New York she requests the dean, Erwin Griswold to allow her to continue her classes at Columbia law school. And when he denies her request, she instead transfers to Columbia Law School.

After graduating the top of her class at Harvard and Columbia she begins her search for the correct law firm to practice law at but she soon realizes that not one will hire her because of her gender. She soon after accepts a job as a professor at Rutgers Law School where she teaches sex discrimination and the law.

Photo courtsy: New York Times. Pictured above is Ruth Bader Ginsburg at her job as a professor.

When a case, Moritz v. Commissioner, is brought to her attention by her fiance, she realizes that this case is sex based discrimination on a man. The case was about how the petitioner, Mr. Moritz hired an aid to help him care for his aging mother who is unable to take care of herself, and when he filed to have a tax deduction on the basis of “household help for invalid mother” he was denied by the federal government. He was denied because of a tax code that allowed deduction only for certain circumstances, and he was denied because he was a man. On appeal, Mr. Moritz was represented by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Martin D. Ginsburg with help from Melvin Wulf of the American Civil Liberties Union. The court agreed with Mr. Mortiz and struck down the law. This court case was the beginning of the Women Rights movements within the courts. Quoting a line in the movie saying,” It could topple the whole damn system of discrimination.”

The running time for the movie is 120 minutes with a budget of 20 million dollars. The movie was released in the US on December 25, 2018 with mixed reviews. It scored a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and and a 6.8/10 on IMDb. Helen O’hara summed up many peoples opinion on the movie in an article on Empire, stating, “It’s not a hugely innovative biopic, covering just a short period of Bader Ginsburg’s extraordinary career, but this is still a vastly inspiring account of the fight for equality. Full review”

In my own opinion, this movie was outstanding, even though it didn’t show the entire life Ruth Bader Ginsburg it showed a very important part of it. This movie had some flaws admittedly but the effort and intentions were clearly there.

Later in life, Ginsburg became a Supreme Court Justice, being the second woman to ever be appointed to that job. The movie is classified as a drama/ legal drama. There is also a documentary called RGB that explains her life in full.

When asked what she thought about the movie, 8th grader Brittany Sullivan said,” I thought the movie really emphasized the struggle women have had in achieving equality in a way that I thought was great. I also had never heard of Ruth Ginsburg before watching the movie and now I’m really interested in what she did in the past and what she is doing right now as a supreme court justice.”

Official portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg