On The Basis of Sex – Review

In On the Basis of Sex, Director Mimi Leder and Writer Daniel Stiepleman Provides a Refreshing Look at the Early Years of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
By Ryan Lindsey

Full disclosure – when I went with my wife and a couple of our friends to see On the Basis of Sex, I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. Truth be told, I didn’t expect to enjoy it at all. I was expecting a two long compilation of typical progressive talking points that traded “wokeness” for nuance and the truth of RBG’s early career. What I ended up watching, however, was a masterpiece.

RBG, Notorious?

The Ginsburg I saw in On the Basis of Sex was nothing like the “gansta” judge persona that pop-culture has given her in recent years. Felecity Jones did a grand job of portraying the righteous anger and indignation boiling in RBG’s soul, but we never once see her lose control in any meaningful way, start hurling hot insults at the plot’s many sexists. She is a pragmatist with a genius-level knowledge of the law who is more than willing to work with anyone to advance her cause. She is portrayed as a formidable and respectable, not notorious.

RBG, Libertarian?

The villain in the movie was without a question The State (more specifically, the U.S. Federal Government). The main plot of the movie revolves around RBG helping a man pay less taxes in order to eliminate laws that allow the Feds to arbitrarily discriminate against women – if that’s not libertarian, then I don’t know what is.

It sounds shocking that someone who is known as a consistently progressive judge could be portrayed as even libertarianish, yet that is exactly what Liber and Stiepleman (RBG’s nephew) did. Regardless of one’s feelings towards modern feminism or RBG’s tenure on the Supreme Court, anyone can watch this movie and cheer RBG’s fight against the man.

If, like I was, you are hesitant to see On the Basis of Sex, I urge you to burn your expectations and enjoy an unexpected take on the early life and career of RBG.


On the Basis of Sex is a Focus Features film, Directed by Mimi Leder and written by Daniel Stiepleman. The movie stars Felicity Jones as RBG, Armie Hammer as Martin Ginsburg, and Justin Theroux as Mel Wulf.

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