Film Review: ON THE BASIS OF SEX (USA 2018) ***

On the Basis of Sex Poster
Trailer

The story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, her struggles for equal rights, and what she had to overcome in order to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Director:

Mimi Leder

Mimi Leder (director of the little seen PAY IT FORWARD and made-for-TV, THICK AS THIEVES) tackles a female issue film, ON THE BASIS OF SEX,  an American biographical legal drama film based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The film is written by Daniel Stiepleman, with an impressive cat that includes Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, with Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Sam Waterston, and Kathy Bates in supporting roles.

If when watching the film, everything looks familiar, perhaps you might have seen a documentary released early this year called RBG, the letters stand for Ruth Bader Ginsburg – the subject of ON THE BASIS OF SEX.  The doc concentrates more on her career and what she has done to promote progressive change in the legal America system.  Leder ON THE BASIS OF SEX, opening during Christmas plays like feel-good stand up and cheer move while trying to keep to the spirit and truth of RBG, a legend in our times.  (One can imagine director Leder herself trying hard o get work as a female director as one notices her dry spell of films after PAY IT FORWARD.)  

The film covers the full life of Ruth Ginsburg.  The first third shows her struggle in an almost all-male (she was one of only 10 females) Harvard Law School.  The film is quick to emphasize that Ruth had more on her plate than her fellow undergraduates.  She was not only married with a kid, but her husband (Armie Hammer) suffered from cancer with hospitalization.  Ruth looked after him, their kid while attending his classes and her own the same time.  She came up top of her class.  The second part shows her at her job after graduation.  She teaches while inspiring her students to change the world.  Her subject was “Sex discrimination and the Law”.

Leder’s film reveals important truths.  The success of a woman depends on the support of her husband.  Clearly Ruth’s husband was always behind her, giving in and urging her to strive on.  The same can be likely said for husband of Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Teresa May. However, Ruth and her husband’s relationship appears too perfect.  “You are ready for this.  You have been ready for this your whole life.  Go in there and let the judges see the real Ruth Ginsburg I know,” is the husband’s best advice, obviously spiced up int he script for artistic purposes.  Despite the husband’s support, it must be certain that they must have had huge arguments that would have rocked their marriage.  No major disagreements are on display except for one minor argument which involves their daughter, now grown up.

English actress Felicity Jones is winning as Ruth Ginsburg.  Armie Hammer, also delivers a remarkable performance in a little written role.  But the best performance comes from little known Charles Milky who plays Charles Moritz, Ruth’s caregiver client denied his tax benefits for looking after his ailing mother based on his gender.

It is clear that more cane learnt about Ruth Ginsburg by watching the doc RBG than this Hollywood dramatization.  Audiences have seen similar films before, like MADE IN DAGENHAM and even the lighter and more hilarious LEGALLY BLONDE.   What is clear is that Ruth Ginsburg is still recognized as a major force in changing sex discrimination in America.  Her story needs be told in one form or another.

So the ultimate question is whether Ruth Ginsburg’s achievement in life can be trivialized into a 2-hour feel good movie?  Surprisingly, the answer is yes, judging that the real Ruth Ginsburg appeared the end of the film implying her endorsement of the film which was written by her nephew, Daniel Stiepleman.  At least the words at the start of the film declared the film ‘inspired’ rather than ‘based’ on a true story.  But as far as feel-good movies go, Leder’s film is a textbook example of how to achieve the task

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28dHbIR_NB4

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Film Review: THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME (USA 2018)

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The Spy Who Dumped Me Poster
Trailer

Audrey and Morgan are best friends who unwittingly become entangled in an international conspiracy when one of the women discovers the boyfriend who dumped her was actually a spy.

Director:

Susanna Fogel

 

When the film title is a rip off of a rip off (Austin Power’s THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME, the ripoff of 007’s THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), one would not have high expectations going into the movie.  True to instinct, THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME, which absolutely wastes the talents of SNL’ s Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis is a totally painfully unfunny buddy, buddy spy movie that makes Paul Feig’s SPY starring Melissa McCarthy look like a masterpiece.

The number one mistake of director Susanna Fogel who co-wrote the script with David Iserson (LIFE PARTNERS) is the decision to make this comedy also an action movie.  Comedy and action do not usually go well together except for a few exceptions like KINGSMEN, and that film worked hard to achieve the correct blend between action and slick comedy.  THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME goes for lower-brow comedy, that despite sleek looking sets and looks still clings desperately to puke, vagina and fart jokes (in the Amsterdam hostel).

Kunis (the straight one in the duo) and McKinnon (the clown) play best friends, Audrey and Morgan.  When the film opens, Fogel intercuts comedy and action.  The comedy is  Audrey’s birthday celebration hosted by Morgan.  The action scene takes place in Lithuania where the boyfriend, Drew (Justin Theroux) who has just dumped Audrey is fighting off dozens of assassins in search for a flash drive that contains some important information.  It turns out, of course, that Audrey is in possession of the drive which puts her, and busybody best friend Morgan in trouble.  They encounter CIA agent Sebastian (hunky gorgeous Sam Heughan) who helps them.  Audrey and Sebastian have a thing going.

It only takes 10 minutes or so into the film when it can be observed that the film does not work.  McKinnon tries her utmost best to be funny.  Though she occasionally succeeds, she turns out more annoying than anything else, especially when she becomes loud and irritating.

The international locations of Prague, Paris, Berlin and others do not help either and it is doubtful that the film was actually shot in these cities.

Too much time is spent on car chases, actions sequences and killings which are below par in terms of excitement (audiences have seen much better in real action films like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT and the Marvel films) while being unfunny and out of place in a film billed as a comedy.  The story with an icy cool female boss or female villain has been done before as are so are the story twists.  Who is the real villain at the end?  Audrey’s new or old boyfriend?  A 5-year old would be able to guess.  For a comedy, the violent segments (such as the cutting off of a thumb for a thumbprint to use the cell phone; the tasers and stabbings) are hardly necessary and kind of uncool. 

Do not stay for the outtakes during the closing credits.  These are just more examples of the painful humour that do not work.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APL30ptgwvg

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Happy Birthday: Justin Theroux

justintheroux.jpgJustin Theroux

Born: August 10, 1971 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Married to:
Jennifer Aniston (5 August 2015 – present)

Guest-starred in a number of episodes of Parks and Recreation (2009). In an episode, his love interest talks about Jennifer Aniston picking the wrong guys. Ironically, Jennifer Aniston is currently dating Theroux.

YOUR HIGHNESS
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Zooey Deschanel
MULLHOLLAND DRMullholland Dr.
2001
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MEGAMINDMEGAMIND
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Jonah Hill
AMERICAN PSYCHOAmerican Psycho
2000
dir. Mary Harron
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Miami Vice
2006
dir. Mann
starring
Colin Farrell
Foxx
MOVIE POSTERWANDERLUST
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Paul Rudd
ZOOLANDERZoolander
2001
dir. Ben Stiller
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Owen Wilson