If you only know Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg from memes about her dissent collar, her bird-like perch on the nation’s highest bench, and her nickname, Notorious RBG, you’re in for a treat. On the Basis of Sex is the story of RBG’s struggle for equal rights – for herself as well as for all women. Directed by Mimi Leder and written by Daniel Stiepleman, and starring Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer and Justin Theroux, On the Basis of Sex is a courtroom drama, in 1950s and 70s midcentury settings and delicious period costumes, with the battle of the sexes teed up and ready to swing down the patriarchal status quo. (Click here to see the trailer.)

Bader Ginsburg is a national treasure, and you’ll agree once you see how she changed the course of women’s rights in this country, using just her brains. Here are six more reasons why you’ll love this film.

  • KiKi: Bader Ginsberg’s nickname as a child was “Kiki,” because she was a “kicky baby.” She’s formidable and strong in so many ways, and hearing about her childhood nickname humanizes her, brings intimacy to these scenes between herself and her dishy husband Martin (Hammer), and lightness to scenes with her longtime friend Mel Wulf (Theroux). She isn’t Notorious yet, but she has a will of steel. The origin story of this woman needs to be told. (See also RBG documentary if you want more of this.)

  • Petticoats: I never thought about RBG as a passionate lover, but under that lace collar, she is all woman. The love scenes with Martin and their deep commitment to each other is a beautiful sight. (They were married 56 years.) Hubba hubba! Also enjoy the sassy view of RBG’s hosiery seams as the film opens.

  • Blue: In several scenes, Bader Ginsburg is wearing blue – not the staid blue wool of a man’s suit, but royal blue, bright blue, dark blue – she stands out from the crowd as a woman and she’s not wearing pink. She makes being strong and intelligent and brave and scared and determined and frustrated and successful, amazing in a non-gender-cliché way. Kudos to director Mimi Leder for this excellent choice.

  • Jane: The mother-daughter relationship is at the secret core of RGB’s strength. Teenager Jane (Cailee Spaeny) inspires and challenges her mother, and her budding feminism makes Ruth realize what she’s fighting for. The young students Professor Ginsberg teaches are similar mirrors. Whenever Jane throws a gantlet down at her mother, Ruth’s commitment to her cause gets an injection of moxie. And Ruth never sees it coming. Skillfully drawn.

  • Drumbeat: The soundtrack begins with a marching band and men’s chorus beating a tattoo as the crowds of young law students head for class. Ruth is alone in the crowd and finds that she is one of just nine women in her law class, setting the tone for her lonely career path. The typewriters pounding out law briefs echo the drumbeats. Later, as the courtroom drama crescendos, those drumbeats return, and transform from ominous to triumphant. Three cheers for appropriately stirring soundtracks!

  • Cameo: They are not cameos but supporting roles—Sam Waterson, beloved from Law and Order, as — can you believe it? An attorney! But such a dick. A good foil for RBG. And Kathy Bates is lumpy, dusty and grumpy as attorney Dorothy Kenyon. But the most surprising character is when the real RBG crosses the scene. I won’t say when, but it’s beautiful when it happens. You’ll float from the theater wanting to change the world.

Julia Park Tracey has raised four swashbuckling feminists and couldn’t be prouder.


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