One of the summer box office superstars this year isn’t a comic book movie or a dinosaur catastrophe or a cartoon. It’s a documentary, specifically, RBG, a documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG has been rocking the specialty box office, one of the best arthouse performers of the summer, undoubtedly in part due to our desperate need of actual, principled leaders and leadership. (The Fred Rogers doc, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, is also doing well because we’re desperate for someone to remind us it’s going to be okay.) So it’s a great time for a biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Notorious RBG has never been more popular and a studio couldn’t luck into more serendipitous timing if they wished for it on a blood moon. Which is exactly what Focus Features did, because they have released the first trailer for On the Basis of Sex, a biopic of RBG.
Felicity Jones has the honor of portraying Her Honor—taking over after Natalie Portman dropped out—and she looks fine. Jones never sets me on fire but she gets the job done. I do like the look on her face when that guy says, “You married a star,” like, Bitch maybe HE married a star. Armie Hammer plays the husband in question, sticking to his trend of character/supporting roles which is working out really well for him. I am curious to see if this movie falls into what I now call the Steve Trevor Principle, in which the male character taking the typically “female” spot in the narrative structure is better written than a female character ever would be, i.e., the way Steve Trevor was better written than 99% of superhero love interests. Wives in Great Man biopics typically come in two flavors: supernaturally supportive or wet blanket. But in the trailer for Basis, Hammer gets plenty of room to make an impression, almost as much impression as Jones makes, and definitely more of an impression than wives in Great Man movie trailers usually make. Compare this to Claire Foy in the First Man trailer to see what I mean.
We f*ckin’ well do need this story right now, though. I LOVE the last line, and though I deeply resent this movie for trying to turn Manhattan District Attorney Jack McCoy into a historical villain, we need to be reminded of what we have won, and be inspired to pursue greater justice and earn more victories. There’s a reason RBG has become a cultural icon and it’s not just her lifelong dedication to equal rights for women. She has come to represent the fight itself, the never-give-upness of justice, and her persistence and dedication is incredibly inspiring. I almost don’t care if the movie is good because we need the message so badly.