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There is no doubt that the event on which "Battle of the Sexes" is
based on was a monumental moment in sports and cultural history. The
exhibition tennis match between Bobby Riggs & Billie Jean King was in
part a circus, but also (in large part) a key moment in the taking of
women athletes seriously on the national stage. While this film
eventually arrives at that point, I felt like it took far too long for
it to "get to the point", so to speak.
For a basic plot summary, this film tells the story of the run-up to the Battle of the Sexes match. Riggs (Steve Carell) is a male chauvinist through and through (or at least plays the role of one), while King (Emma Stone) is perhaps the premiere women's tennis player of her era. While King struggles with her confusing sexuality and Riggs falls on hard times with his own wife, this sets the wheels in motion for a match that will be more than just an exhibition, as it seemingly carries with it the weight of the Women's Liberation movement of the 1970s.
Let me be clear about one thing: This isn't a "bad" movie by any stretch. Great acting performances are given, and the final 30 minutes are fully riveting. I completely understood and appreciated the message that was being conveyed.
That being said, the entire film is predicated on the notion that the setup (e.g. the first 70-80 minutes or so) of both lead figures will lead to more dramatic payoff in the end. For me, that didn't happen (in fact, it actually had the opposite effect). I'm not sure that King's sexual leanings needed to be a focal point of the story, and in Riggs' case his relationship with his wife (played by Elisabeth Shue) should have been developed even more. Because neither of these things really get on track, at least the first half of the film felt slow and stodgy to me.
Once the match is set and the buildup/execution of it begins, though, the film really shines. I only have video footage to go on here (I was not alive for the real thing), but Stone is sometimes a dead-ringer for King on the court. Carell's antics as Riggs were also accurate from what I have read/heard.
So, while being a solid film, I cannot give "Battle of the Sexes" more than just above-average marks for the lackluster opening acts. I felt like a different lens was needed (or the execution of the chosen lens needed to be better) in order to make the movie truly riveting in the end instead of "just" somewhat inspirational. It never got to that "next level" for me (aside from the material about the actual match itself).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BATTLE OF THE SEXES (2017) *** Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Sarah Silverman, Pill Bullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Jessica McNamee. Stone and Carell shine as 1970s tennis aces Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs who took on the world of tennis (and the world at large) in an iconic tennis match with the closeted lesbian fighting for women's rights and the comical male chauvinistic pig attempting a comeback after a series of setbacks. Filmmaking couple Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris give a well-balanced effort in allowing their protagonists to be well-rounded largely thanks to a smart screenplay by Simon Beaufoy.
.... And a bit of historical nostalgia and a nod to BJK's contribution to our society's two-steps- forward- two and a half- back progress in attaining equal rights and privileges for... well, everybody. Great acting, as we've come to expect from Carell and Stone, and good story development. They did what I thought was an odd thing with the tennis scenes and I get why they did it but it felt off: they slowed down the action to look like what I see when I'm out on the local courts watching pretty good players duff around. Professional women regularly clock speeds of 120mph on their serve and the power of their returns would blow your mind. The producers made it look like a weekend amateur could manage a volley with either of these pros. Very unrealistic, which is the only reason I subtracted a point!
The directing duo team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris played a nice game of doubles in helming the true-based story "Battle of the Sexes" into cinematic screens. The film is based on the infamous tennis match in the early 70's between sweetheart female lib tennis great Billie Jean King and the male chauvinistic retired Hall-of-Famer Bobby Riggs. But the movie is much more than that, it also stages themes of gender equal rights, estranged marriages, sports management, and scores as a LOVE letter to the early 70's. Emma Stone serves up another ace performance, here as King. Steve Carell was a bit outlandish, but still returned serve with a sound performance. The film also had an advantage of very good supporting performances from Elisabeth Shue as Riggs' wife, Sarah Silverman as King's manager, and Andrea Riseborough as King's lesbian lover. "Battle of the Sexes" matches up quite right, and was not "rigged". Give it a try! **** Good
'BATTLE OF THE SEXES': Five Stars (Out of Five)
A sports biopic based on the highly publicized 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. It stars Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs; with Andrea Riseborough, Austin Stowell, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Natalie Morales and Alan Cumming in supporting roles. The movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the duo also helmed 2006's 'LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE' (also costarring Carell), and it was written by Simon Beaufoy (who also wrote 1997's 'THE FULL MONTY'). The film has received mostly positive reviews from critics, but it's a disappointment at the Box Office so far. I loved it!
In 1973 Billie Jean King, and other professional women tennis players, are sick of getting paid peanuts compared to the male pros. So they start their own women's tournament, and find sponsoring through a cigarette company. Bobby Riggs (Carell) is a retired ex-champion tennis player, who also thinks he should be paid more money for a game than he's currently being offered, and he sees a chance to make a lot of money by challenging Billie Jean King to a match. King knows it's all a publicity stunt for Riggs, so she's reluctant to accept his challenge, but then she feels obligated to defend all of women tennis players, by participating in the match.
The movie is funny, surprisingly emotional, and inspiring too. Both Stone and Carell are fantastic in the lead roles, and I really like how the filmmakers didn't make Bobby Riggs the 'bad guy' of the movie. He was obviously doing it just to get back in the game, and make some money in the process, and he's actually a really sympathetic character in it. So is Stone, as King, and she makes a great badass heroine in the movie too. There are some classic intense dialogue scenes as well, and some intimate emotional ones too. It's an all around really well made, and effective movie. I really liked 'LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE' too, it was my favorite film of 2006, and I think this is another great addition to Dayton and Faris's resume.
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Audiences sometimes show a tendency to stay away from movies founded
upon actual people or events, possibly resisting the feeling of
allowing a history lesson to interfere with their entertainment. Even a
terrific movie such as "The Right Stuff" in 1983 suffered at the box
office because many film-goers mistakenly believed the picture to be a
Possibly that's the reason Fox Searchlight Pictures is opening the wonderful new movie "Battle of the Sexes" with such apparent caution, debuting first in major cities and adding additional locations as the picture builds critical and popular momentum.
"Battle of the Sexes" depicts with refreshing accuracy an actual 1973 event, at a time when women in sports were achieving some parity with men. The aging Bobby Riggs, sensing in the times an opportunity for self-promotion and financial gain, publicly challenged in turn two of tennis' reigning female championsfirst Margaret Court and then Billie Jean Kingto matches against him, boasting no woman could compete and prevail in a sporting activity against a man.
It seems like the only person who's trying to turn "Battle of the Sexes" into a history lesson is actor Steve Carell, playing the real-life former tennis champion turned gambler, promoter, and hustler Bobby Riggs. Carell disappears so completely into his characterization of Bobby Riggs that it often seems like there's no Steve Carell left.
That might be a wonderful achievement for Carell as an actor. But in vanishing so completely into his role, Carell risks alienating the audience in much the same way Dustin Hoffman and Jim Carrey did in 1974's "Lenny" and 1999's "Man on the Moon." Both Hoffman and Carrey were consumed so completely by their impersonations that they forgot their primary goal was to entertain the audiencein their characterizations, Lenny Bruce and Andy Kaufman, the real-life comics they portrayed, became deeply unfunny and unsympathetic people.
Faring better in "Battle of the Sexes" is actress Emma Stone as Billie Jean King. With little cosmetic modification beyond her hair style and the addition of King's trademark glasses, Stone easily captures the iconic tennis star's natural dignity and poise. That King is depicted as also coming to terms with her sexuality might be the telescoping of events for dramatic purposes, but the point works well in creating a human dimension in a character who might otherwise have been depicted as too driven, goal-oriented, and bloodless.
Written by Simon Beaufoy and directed by the team of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, "Battle of the Sexes" becomes a richly enjoyable chronicle of a time and event modern audiences might find difficult to imagine. Those fearing a civics seminar or a documentary can relaxin this retelling, history takes a backseat to superb entertainment.
The themes presented in this film are still relevant and have merit.
With that said, I want to add that ever since Ibsen wrote "A Doll's
House," it's very rare to get a film (or play for that matter) that is
charged with the theme of gender equality and presents it in a way that
truly resonates. What do I mean? In films that aim to give a message or
present an issues, such as when the writer wants to say something about
the relevant society, more often than not, the writer portrays those
characters in simple categorizations of good and bad. That may work in
a superhero film, but in a piece of realism, where character
development and relationships are key elements to the storytelling,
simple good and bad just won't do. That's my issue with this film. The
screenplay simplifies a few integral characters too much, in favor of
hoisting up its protagonist.
To get this out of the way, the performances are fantastic. Emma Stone and Steve Carell lead the cast well, and the cast doesn't have a weak link in it. In particular, a lot of credit has to be given to Steve Carell. He took a character that was underwritten and perhaps even misrepresented and makes him sympathetic and someone to root for. Andrea Riseborough also delivers a very affecting performance and really gives us some great scene work with Emma Stone.
The directing is swift, well paced and well filmed. Kudos to the cinematographer who really has a wonderful grasp on stillness to promote an essential moment and exerts great uses of soft and hard focus to portray dramatic moments and internalize character feelings. The editing also deserves a shout out for some wonderful pacing and really effectively switching between the grainy, 70s like cinematography and more clear cinematography.
Now, back to the screenplay. What made and still makes "A Doll's House" the ultimate gender-equality script is that every character can be sympathized with. We learn more about the human condition and evils of society, rather than placing blame and anger on individual groups. There are only two men that can be rooted for without hesitation and that's our protagonist's husband and father. Every other guy is completely unlikable and has no arc, and Steve Carell's character can be questioned. Carell's character, who is a vital part of this story, isn't written very well or thoroughly. It's always hard to have two protagonists in a film, especially at a reasonable and well paced time. Carell's character is both an antagonist and protagonist or, at least attempts to be so. Carell's character opposes Emma Stone's. It's a man versus women ordeal and their tennis match is the crisis and climax of the film. But, here's the issue. Carell's character is NOT the antagonist. It's society! So why is Carell's character's standing within the realm of the film so questionable? Why doesn't he get his own arc? Every major character in "A Doll's House" takes a journey. That's what makes us empathize with them and come away disliking their society, and not the products of that society. The same would work with this film. But instead, there is a co- protagonist / antagonist that is not written for people to care about or even empathize with. He gets no arc, no change. He's unaffected. He may as well have been a smaller part.
Why is this an issue? Because Emma Stone's character is a catalyst. She's the driving force and vehicle used within the film to represent the affects of an unjust era and to showcase the positive effects that a change in this society would have. Unfortunately, because Carell's character and the real antagonists (the sexists who sit atop the societal ladder) don't change, because we only see them as unlikable, this story turns into something simple and ultimately un-fulfilling. Stone's character merely wins the battle within the film and we come away knowing that and are momentarily happy. However, that soon goes away, which makes this entertaining dramedy perhaps a little forgettable. Had the writing been more substantial and caring to all its characters, and forgiving to all its characters and condemned society instead, we'd come away with a more profound understanding of where issues lie and are issued from. That's a memorable film. I suppose the cinematic world is still chasing Ibsen.
I give this film 3 out of 5 stars for its entertainment value and performances and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Reviewed by Willie J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
Battle of the Sexes is an old fashioned, sensitive, crowd pleasing film
that never feels outdated. The only downside is how fact & fiction
portrayed in Battle of the Sexes almost feels like a documentary.
As I was watching Battle of the Sexes, a part of me felt ashamed that attitudes towards women sports, equal pay and rights haven't made giant steps since 1973.
From the opening frames, Billy Jean King (beautifully played by Emma Stone) is fighting against US Lawn Tennis Association for equal pay; men's single prize money is $12,000 and women's single prize money is $1,200. Billy is asking for equal pay but the male bosses reject her plea; they believe the men's tennis has bigger names, higher quality and draws bigger crowds despite woman's tennis games drawing the same crowds.
Battle of the Sexes isn't about tennis but the universal fight to be freed from the shackles of outdated societal values.
Directors Valerie Faris & Johnathan Dayton and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy use the well-worn underdog, sports template to winning effect; repellent villains, training montages, back room deals and typical last-minute setbacks are knowingly included (although this did happen in real life). Despite the sport movie clichés, the filmmakers manage to find space for moments of real sensitivity; Billy Jean's self-exploration or Bobby consoling his wife, the tension is felt on both sides.
Considering how many high-profile male politicians and public figures have been rightly criticised for their attitude towards women, the film could've taken the easy step to make bobby Riggs a real chauvinistic monster. Credit to Carell and Beaufoy for not descending Riggs into a caricature; he's clown, showman and compulsive gambler who you may perversely believe that he helped Women's Tennis Association in stature.
From the 16mm film stock, the sun-dried visuals and music choices; this is a wonderfully romantic film, embracing love in every form and wearing its modern-day parable with pride. Despite BOTS relevant themes, this never feels preachy or one-note while becoming an incredibly entertaining movie.
Whether you are voting yes or no in the current plebiscite, I have no doubt anyone watching Battle of the Sexes will be air punching their way to the end and hopefully feel the need to change the world. That's what great entertainment can do; make people unaware they're embracing an disagreeable ideal without realizing it.
Great dynamic drama but absolutely is not a comedy.
I got so much than I expected with this movie. For one, it was actually good.
The characters are all very deep and their story lines are compelling and woven together with grace and skill. No character is a caricature of themselves which I find rare in most films.
The love and relationships play as legitimate and real. But this is not at all a funny movie. It's amusing at times to be sure but comedy it is not.
If you want to laugh out loud, pick something else. If you want to enjoy a surprisingly good drama, this is your film.
This was a fascinating docudrama about the match between Bobby Riggs-the middle-aged admitted male chauvinist-and Billie Jean King-the phenomenal female tennis champ. We see each of their lives before the match and marvel at the period of the times and how certain social situations were handled at the time and what changes were happening during it. Emma Stone and Steve Carell embody their roles to the hilt. Also fascinating hearing Howard Cosell's commentary throughout the actual action when he originally did it on ABC during that time. I saw this with my movie theatre-working friend and we both highly recommend it!
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