Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. The Notorious R.B.G. She’s an 85-year-old force to be reckoned with, with a level of ambition and spunk that isn’t often seen working in tandem. The country loves her, Congress is in awe of her and now we have not one, but two biopics that we can watch over and over again when we’re feeling a little down about the state of things.
The first, “RBG,” is a documentary that covers Ginsburg’s life from childhood to today, chronicling the justice’s road to, well, justice throughout her decades-long career. Ginsburg is most notably known for her work in reversing gender discrimination in the United States, which is where “On the Basis of Sex” comes in.
As 2018 has been marked by the #MeToo movement and dubbed the Year of the Woman, “On the Basis of Sex” is both a significant title to close out film this year (the movie premieres Christmas Day) and a reminder to the country that despite the landmark change Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones here with a questionable Brooklyn accent, has administered, she’s only just laid the groundwork.
“On the Basis of Sex,” written by Ginsburg’s own nephew Daniel Steipleman in his debut screenwriting role, shows audiences that breaking the glass ceiling isn’t just a cute phrase to put on a paperweight. The film follows an approximate 15-year chunk of Ginsburg, and her family’s, life from classes at Harvard Law, a professorship at Rutgers and joint litigation of what becomes a monument proceeding for gender laws: Moritz v. Commissioner.
The result does for 2018 what “Legally Blonde” did for 2001: It paints a picture of what it means to be a strong as hell woman in a society prepared to knock them down. It sounds silly, sure; “On the Basis of Sex” is an earnest biography, not to be taken as lightly as the story of Elle Woods and her chihuahua. But the themes reflect each other, and, in essence, it’s due in part to Ruth Bader Ginsburg that Reese Witherspoon could rock a hot pink business suit in Harvard Yard -- Ginsburg was one of just nine women in her own Harvard class, after all.