The new biopic about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a corny attempt to beatify the judge as a liberal saint, according to a number of movie critics.
Felicity Jones stars in On the Basis of Sex, which tells the story of the iconic Supreme Court justice’s early career. The movie has received generally mixed reviews, with many critics approving of its “lefty” message but finding the execution to be an underwhelming attempt at liberal “hagiography.”
The Federalist managing editor Liz Wolfe even wrote that the movie panders to liberal audiences with a flat depiction of the life of the liberal heroine.
RBG movie was “terrible”
It’s not surprising that many critics found that the movie had its heart in the right place given its feel-good, liberal message, but the quality of the film is another matter, and several critics had lukewarm responses. Numerous reviewers, including writers at liberal sites, thought the movie was cliché, predictable, and uninspiring.
Writing for The Federalist, Wolfe found that the movie has a flat protagonist, stiff dialogue, and a ham-fisted message about equality that hits the viewer in the face with the subtlety of an anvil falling from the sky. Wolfe went on to note that several scenes felt like cheap, historically inaccurate attempts to sell a leftist narrative, including one scene in which Ginsburg’s daughter, Jane, skips school to go to a Gloria Steinem rally.
“Of course catcalling existed in the ’60s and ’70s, but did we really need the over-the-top scene with Jane telling her mother that she can’t let men push her around?” Wolfe wrote. “The ‘young feminist teaches older feminist, older feminist feels proud of new generation’ schtick felt forced.”
Wolfe also took issue with other attempts to retcon Ginsburg as a “hip” countercultural hero, writing: “Were students really saying ‘get laid’ and ‘bulls**t’ in front of their professors in the ’60s? Was Ginsburg super cool with that?”
Wolfe also felt the movie had bad pacing and that Ginsburg’s character remained cardboard flat throughout the film, which is sustained by a sentimental score that tells viewers how to feel. She said she didn’t sour on the movie because of its subject, who she said deserves a better tribute, but to her, the movie is “just plain bad.”
Poor attempt at “hagiography”
Other reviewers found the film to be superficial and sentimental, including several critics at liberal magazines, some of whom gave damning critiques of the way the film handles the full and impressive life of the liberal justice.
“On the Basis of Sex is a solid, often impassioned film, but too often its worst instincts take over, and clichés stack up faster than legal documents. Ginsburg’s legacy will endure, but it’s questionable as to whether this film will survive with her,” a reporter for the Guardian wrote.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Joe Morgenstern said: “It’s informative, in a didactic way, but basically an exercise in hagiography, a skin-deep celebration of someone who has never settled for superficiality in her life’s work.”
Given the cultish obsession that liberals have with Ginsburg, it’s not surprising that the movie falls back on a cliche representation of Ginsburg as a progressive saint. Other critics had issues with the way the movie attempts to beatify Ginsburg without providing much of substance.
“The dramatic approach here is clear, efficient and entirely on-the-nose, with little time for anything that might distract from the hagiographic effort in play. Its sole purpose is to ennoble and proclaim a hero, which its subject almost certainly is. But it makes for notably simplified drama,” read a report in the Hollywood Reporter.
The movie has an average score of 71 percent on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.