Felicity Jones is the Notorious RBG in On the Basis of Sex, a Mimi Leder-directed release recounting Ruth Bader Ginsberg's push for gender equality during the early part of her law career. Though the film—written by Ginsburg's own nephew, Daniel Stiepleman—has a decent 71% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, some wonder if its worthy of its subject, who makes a brief appearance. Four takes:
- It's "serviceable" but certainly not the "knockout biopic" Ginsburg deserves, writes Adam Graham at the Detroit News. He was surprised to find "a film that mostly sticks to the rules … since it's something Ginsburg has never done." Jones captures her "inner fire," but "it's been a long time since a courtroom scene has really popped on screen, and they don't here." To boot, the film "is happy to play down to viewers," he says.
- It's "worth seeing," but "proves more dutiful than delightful, only stirring to life toward the end," writes Brian Lowry at CNN. He wishes Leder hadn't been so formulaic. Here's "a story we've seen, in one form or another, many times before," he writes. Still, Jones and Armie Hammer, in the role of Marty Ginsburg, have "an easy chemistry that reinforces descriptions of the couple's relationship as a true love story."
- Katie Walsh of Tribune News Services is more complimentary, describing "a lovely tribute" that "beautifully argues the importance of Ginsburg's work." "As a character study, it's simple, clear and lacking much nuance, but as a legal dissection, it's fascinating," she writes, giving props to Hammer. He's "a delight as sunny Marty."
- Justin Chang appreciates that the film "flirts with the too rarely proposed theory that behind every successful woman there is a supportive, blissfully unthreatened man." But "you can't help wishing it had more to offer than righteous speeches and stirring glances," he writes at the Los Angeles Times. Jones suffers a bit: She gives "an engaging performance if not a fully realized one, which has less to do with a wobbly Brooklyn accent than with the picture's reductive conception of the character."
(Monday saw a first in Ginsburg's 25-year tenure
on the Supreme Court.)