You've read her memoir, seen the documentary, maybe even bought a T-shirt. Now, add another piece of Ruth Bader Ginsburg merch to your list: She's the subject of a Hollywood biopic, "On the Basis of Sex."
And oh, how very Hollywood it is.
Written and executive produced by Bader Ginsburg's nephew, Daniel Stiepleman , "On the Basis of Sex" stars Felicity Jones as the future associate justice of the Supreme Court and Armie Hammer as her husband, tax lawyer Martin Ginsburg. Restricting its focus to Bader Ginsburg's very early years as a legal crusader for women's rights, "On the Basis of Sex" tells an inspirational story of struggle that by and large rings true. (Much of it was covered earlier this year in the documentary "RBG.") Something about this movie, though, feels too glossy, too perfect. Directed by Mimi Leder ("Pay it Forward") with polished professionalism, "On the Basis of Sex" puts its heroine up on a pedestal but also traps her in amber.
But did the two leads have to be quite so sparkling and toothsome? Must they be always bathed in warm, Scotch-colored light? In its early scenes, set in the "Mad Men" era, the movie feels more like a well-dressed period piece than the story of a living person. (Jones never quite nails that Old New York accent; Hammer wisely declines to try.)
Nevertheless, they win us over -- Jones ("The Theory of Everything") with her natural buoyancy, Hammer with sheer earnestness. There are also some good turns from the support cast. Sam Waterston, as a condescending Harvard Law dean, harrumphs indignantly; Justin Theroux is quite good as Mel Wulf, an ACLU lawyer with high ideals and sharp elbows; Cailee Spaeny plays the Ginsburgs' tantrum-prone teenager, Jane (who is a Columbia Law School professor today). Charles Moritz, the man Bader Ginsburg counter-intuitively represents in a landmark gender discrimination case, is played by a woebegone Chris Mulkey.
"On the Basis of Sex" mostly tells us what we already know about its subject: She's smart, stubborn and principled. We don't get much insight into anyone's personality or psychology here. Still, for Bader Ginsburg's many devoted fans, this glowing tribute may be just the ticket.
Felicity Jones began her career in British television programs like "Servants," then began edging into movies. Here are four films that trace her rise to stardom.
By Rafer Guzmán firstname.lastname@example.org
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