As I write this review, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently discharged from the hospital following a successful surgery removing cancer nodules from her lungs. My advanced screening of On the Basis of Sex occurred a full week before her hospitalization, but served as a reminder that she is indeed a gender discrimination stalwart and literal mensch on a bench, how her health should never be taken for granted. Although, for your Mi Sheberach purposes, Justice Ginsburg’s Hebrew name is Yita Ruchel bat Tzirel Leah.
On the Basis of Sex directed by Mimi Leder, offers an early look into RBG’s legal career starting with her beginning at Harvard Law School when her husband Marty falls ill with cancer. A committed performance by Felicity Jones brings to life RBG’s tenacity and perseverance with her attending Marty’s second-year classes in addition to her own, all the while raising an infant daughter at home.
The theme of this movie clearly and articulately resonated with the ‘nevertheless she persisted’ ethos of the current political climate in Washington. However, as the movie progressed, I was pleased to see her legal career and convictions coming to life, with her first job teaching gender discrimination at Rutgers Law School, but was left with wanting to see more of her oral arguments and progression of her legal career.
The movie prominently featured her first oral argument to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals about a tax code that expressly limited a tax deduction to “a woman, a widower, or divorce, or a husband whose wife is incapacitated or institutionalized” that a male caregiver for his mother did not qualify for.
In the end, RBG was victorious in her argument, but it was those cases and her arguments about gender discrimination that I was hungry for more. I left the theatre buoyed, and touched, especially by the final scene of the real RBG ascending the steps of the Supreme Court that left me verklempt, but waiting for something more showing the progression of her legal career.