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On The Basis of Sex DVD review: Dir. Mimi Leder (2019)

Today, as we watch abortion laws continue to tighten in the US threatening the freedoms of American women, it could not be a better time to remember the work that Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) did to fight against laws which blatantly discriminate against women ‘on the basis of sex’ because it is harrowing.  

Having known far less than I should about RBG, and the influential impact her intellect and courage had on eliminating gender discrimination from American law, I found On the Basis of Sex to be an incredibly informative and enlightening biopic about a woman whose life and career enabled the freedoms of modern American women.  

Director Mimi Leder, and screenwriter Daniel Stiepleman, consistently juxtaposing RBG’s career path, played here by Felicity Jones, with that of her husband’s, even though she is shown to be by far the most driven and determined of the two, which highlights exactly how the system was rigged against women. With exactly the same qualifications he rises to a senior position at a law firm rapidly, whilst she is left unemployed and ends up changing her career path because law firms simply don’t want to hire her. 

The performances in this film were excellent, and whilst I was not always convinced of Felicity Jones’ Brooklyn accent, she pulled off an emotional and powerful depiction of one of America’s great heroes. Armie Hammer had his moments but he’s simply outshone by Jones.

As can be expected of biopics which deal with such complex issues as gender inequality, there is always a sense at the end of the film that everything is fixed and that this one woman’s battle was enough to eliminate gender inequality. This often fosters the perception that with the changing of the law comes the changing of minds, which the film does discuss but in many ways in contrast to what the film explicitly states, the minds of the american public were not fully changed before the laws came in, and gender inequality is still now by no means solved.

Narrowing the fight for gender equality to the linear narrative of one women leaves many stories untold, and leaves a false perception that achieving the goal RBG wanted at the end of the film, is the same as achieving this equality.

On the Basis of Sex comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 24 June, order now: https://amzn.to/2Fcw2nN


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