On the Basis of Sex

Felicity Jones plays Ruth Bader Ginsburg from her mid-20s to her early 40s in this glossy, hackneyed biopic. Daniel Stiepleman’s script reduces everyone to a progressive-minded hero or a reactionary villain, and those who display any moral ambiguity eventually come around to the right side; for her part, director Mimi Leder (whose previous credits include the notoriously mawkish Pay It Forward and lots of series television) delivers this in the fashion of Steven Spielberg at his sentimental, self-righteous worst. At least Leder has the good sense also to rip off Spielberg at his best: after a prologue depicting Ginsburg’s experience at Harvard Law School in the mid-1950s, the film concentrates on a relatively short, but momentous period in the subject’s life a la Lincoln (2012). The tight focus makes for an engaging, fast-moving legal drama; as with Spielberg at both his best and worst, this is seldom boring. With Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, and Kathy Bates.