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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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“On the Basis of Sex:” an underwhelming biopic

On+the+Basis+of+Sex
Photo by Via IMDb.com
On the Basis of Sex

“On the Basis of Sex,” directed by Mimi Leder, depicts the early career of one of the, if not the, most famous supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Ginsburg managed to win bipartisan praise for her dedicated work for female equality during her career prior to her Supreme Court appointment in 1993, but this film fails to bring any substance to this influential time period.
The film follows Ginsburg from her days at Harvard and Columbia Law School to the first case she takes on gender discrimination law. Her time studying in college takes up about half of the film and is meant to depict the various challenges Ginsburg faced as a woman in a male-dominated environment. However, what is played as a shocking reveal of the gender discrimination during that time period comes off overwhelmingly truistic.
The screenplay, written by first-time screenwriter and Ginsburg’s nephew, Daniel Stiepleman, is one of the worst biopic screenplays of 2018. With the dreadful biopic screenplays of films like “First Man” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” to come out in the same year, it is an unfortunate reality that a film depicting Ginsburg would be placed alongside films such as these. Ginsburg is one of the most personable figures in our government, but Stiepleman reduces her to a mumbling, clumsy cliché.
Stiepleman tries to focus too much on Ginsburg’s personal life, so once the film gets around to her court case, the film feels too rushed. Now, this isn’t inherently Stiepleman’s fault. Ginsburg, now 85, has lived a long and influential life. That said, Stiepleman and Leder waste too much time on Ginsburg’s household drama, rather her time fighting gender discrimination. This is clearly a failure in the unnecessary attempt to depict Ginsburg’s household life.
Much like the other lousy biopic films of the year, Leder and Stiepleman rely heavily on the audiences admiration of Ginsburg to make up for their lack of directing and writing ability. The final product is a watered-down mess of period and genre clichés, with some heavy-handed depictions of famous moments in Ginsburg’s career.
Alongside the insufferable screenplay, the casting of Felicity Jones as Ginsburg is an odd choice to say the least. Jones, a British actress, struggles throughout the film to maintain Ginsburg’s Brooklyn accent. Sometimes the Brooklyn accent is present, other times it is nonexistent, and, on a few occasions throughout the film, her British accent is on full display.
Fortunately, this film is the second film about Ginsburg to come out this year, so Ginsburg’s legacy depicted on film isn’t ruined. “RBG” is a documentary that gave a more definite understanding of Ginsburg’s life. The film highlights the legal achievements of Ginsburg and describes her sudden and surprising rise to popularity in pop culture. Although not a perfect documentary, the film is a much better look at Ginsburg’s life.
Overall, the film’s lack of quality and dedication to clichés is unfortunate. It is unlikely that another Ginsburg biopic will ever be produced, so hopefully the “RBG” documentary will leave a lasting impact that will overshadow this failed project. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is certainly one of the most influential women in American history, so thankfully her legacy will not be tarnished by the, at times, hilariously awful depiction of her early life.
Rating: 1.5/5

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