REVIEW: While cliched, ‘Basis of Sex’ is still inspiring

A Supreme Court justice now has a superhero origin story.

“On the Basis of Sex” tells the story of how Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) entered the world of law and began a career focused on equal rights. That career, of course, would lead to her becoming a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

“Basis” begins with Ginsburg attending Harvard University’s law school and follows this up with her time as a professor at Rutgers University. The latter is where she would take on a case where the nation’s tax code discriminated on the basis of sex.

This movie features a very important section of Ginsburg’s life and shows how she became a force in the United States legal system. It’s a very interesting story, and the inclusion of sequences showing her life at home goes a long way in humanizing this figure who’s become so large in America’s government.

The quality in how all of that portrayed, though, is where “Basis” falls a bit flat. There’s simply not enough filmmaking style here to complement the movie’s strong substance. Unfortunately, there were some points here where it felt like the quality was more akin to a made-for-TV movie, rather than a theatrical production.

Another qualm with the flick is how much of the runtime is dedicated to certain parts of Ginsburg’s life. For example, the movie isn’t a full biopic of Ginsburg’s life, as its main focus is on this tax case, yet there’s a lot of time showing her time at Harvard. Not that this wasn’t an important part of Ginsburg’s life, but it could have been scaled back to focus more on the discrimination case.

With that said, “Basis” can still win over an audience thanks to what it’s based on. Ginsburg’s life and her work specifically displayed here is inspiring and made for many compelling and engaging moments. While it’s not as memorable visually, what the movie is about can still successfully hook in an audience.

It also helps that Jones gives strong performance in her portrayal of Ginsburg. Perhaps not Oscar-level, but still a good, effective portrayal of a young woman who would go on to do great things. It help that the supporting cast, featuring performers such as Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux and Sam Waterston, was strong, too.

While “On the Basis of Sex” is far from perfect, it’s still a good entry in the world of biopics. While there are plenty of cliches as well as average music and filmmaking techniques, the acting and story is enough to elevate this flick and make it worth checking out. 3.5 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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