Remember that strange time when people had the sense that the courts might be an avenue to gain rights for the marginalized, as they did during the civil rights movement? When the different branches of government seemed to (kind of) balance each other, rather acting like rotting branches covered with metaphorical fungus on a sick tree?
If you want to fondly remember a time when people had trust in American institutions to make change in the country, then “On the Basis of Sex” is vying to provide that remembrance. The film will tell the story of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before she was on the Supreme Court.
The film will be released on Christmas, which only seems appropriate for a time when hope for the supreme court was at an all-time low for many women. Today, Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the U.S., might be in peril (and if you count restrictions on abortions in certain states, it perhaps already is). Christmas, having become a largely secular holiday for many, simply represents hope — and the movie’s release will then send a strong message about its content.
In short, the law may be changing in a big way soon, so it will be calming to look back on times when the law was an agent of change to complement activism. The biopic also complements the work in the recent documentary “RBG” about the same justice and her legal legacy as well as her rise to pop culture importance.
Ginsburg’s symbolism is more important now than ever; not only is she a reminder of the past and the adversity overcame then (as the movie will show), but her seat on the court becomes increasingly important to progressives. At age 85, Ginsburg is still going strong, and in some ways, she is doing so literally; her personal training regimen was featured on “The Late Show,” demonstrating how the justice trains hard to keep in shape.
The workouts take on a sense of urgency when Ginsburg’s personal iconography would make any loss of her seat devastating, even outside of the probable legal consequences during the Trump era. Now more than ever, she needs to train so she doesn’t lose her spot on the bench.
Felicity Jones is the face of the new trailer, replacing Natalie Portman’s early interest in the project. The trailer begins with the powerful image of men in suits around her like a sea as she stands out in her blue jacket. The men around her look identical, and that shot seems to define the compelling nature of the film; the faces of American institutions and positions of power have been changing for a while, but this shot is a look at the world as it was and still mostly is, striking the viewer with its homogeny.
The film may provide a way to look back into the past, and perhaps feel a balm of hope for the way forward.