On The Basis of Sex


  • Original title: On The Basis of Sex
  • Director: Mimi Leder
  • Release year: 2018
  • Original language: English


Unarguably one the most important figures when it comes to gender equality and women’s rights, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s has been part of popular American culture for years (she is widely known by youngsters on social media as “Notorious RBG”). Mimi Leder’s new feature, On The Basis of Sex explores the early days of Ginsberg’s career and fight against gender discrimination.

Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer are charming and their onscreen chemistry works, but even the scenes exploring Ruth and Marty’s adorable, forward-thinking relationship dynamic are not enough to truly move the narrative forward in a captivating way. The supporting cast, on the other hand, is far from outstanding, with some mediocre performances such as Sam Waterston as a caricature of Harvard’s Law School Director and Kathy Bates coming straight out of something like Mary Poppins.

On The Basis of Sex could easily be summed up by its first and last ten minutes, with a bunch of non-effective scenes being thrown one after another for a good hour in between. The work of costume and set design, however, is so skilfully done it often outshines the script. The Ginsberg household colours and overall design matches Ruth’s wardrobe so perfectly one would think they were watching a Wes Anderson feature.

Unfortunately for Leder, it is hard not to compare On the Basis of Sex to RBG, 2019 Oscar-nominated documentary that also explores the Justice’s life. Whilst the latter is an ode to RBG’s trailblazing career, the former is mostly a love story filled with sweet but cliché moments that – no pun intended – do not do justice to Ginsberg’s legacy.

It is nothing but a shame that Leder and writer Daniel Stieplemen have decided to approach RBG’s story as a cutesy romance, especially in the current social and political climate. The importance of circumstances is more than once mentioned during On The Basis of Sex, but sadly, the film decided to ignore its main character’s advice, turning into an easily forgettable experience, and forgettable sounds nothing like Ginsberg.



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