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The looks may be fine, but the message is very deceiving
Thomas28 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Battle of the Sexes" (what the hell is up with the German title, they cannot be serious, that is really more sexist than anything or anybody in this film) is a British/American film from 2017, a very recent release, that runs for pretty much exactly 2 hours. Director are the duo from Little Miss Sunshine, the writer is an Oscar winner from Slumdog Millionaire, so quite an illustrious team. Same goes for the cast. Emma Stone is fresh off her first Oscar win while Steve Carell managed a transition from small screen to big screen in the last decade that is among the best there is. And film buffs will find many other known faces in the supporting cast too, even if you could argue that Carell is supporting too. It's too close to call for him. Shue, Armisen, Riseborough, Pullman, Silverman... and fans of Scrubs and The Good Wife will also be happy to see some stars from their shows here, even if I must say the latter, i.e. Alan Cumming is very weak sadly in here, basically a poor man's Stanley Tucci once again. And Silverman was really the worst playing a character whose in-your-face feminist approach really hurts her cause more than it helps. At least there were ideas and imagination in Stone's character, but Silverman's was really so shallow and annoying that it got unbearable to watch, even if it is probably rather the writer's fault than the actor's. The makeup/costume fit nicely there too, in a bad way that is.

Now about the film itself: We have a year that gave us surprisingly 2 tennis-themed movies while other years have 0. But here it is true again too that the men provided the far better entertainment. The Shia Labeouf film about the McEnroe/Borg rivalry was on a truly high level that gave us gritty entertaining drama that was as good as it gets. This one here is the exact opposite. The tennis parts are mediocre and it's sometimes even clearly visible that the ones we see on court are not Stone and Carell. And the feminism/sexism parts that actually are at the very center of the film feel included in a way that lacks zero subtlety and shoves the message right in our faces. The way in which Margaret Court, a real champion of the sport, is depicted is something everybody working on this project should be ashamed of. The fact that she has a family and may be more conservative than the other female players was used so shamelessly against her and there is that one scene when she sees the real reason behind King's companion and ruthlessly uses it in her favor. Oh yeah, Court only won the tournament because King was struggling in her private life discovering her homosexuality and risking her marriage. But of course, Stone's character is so likable, so worth cheering for, so headstrong. Who cares she just can't be faithful to her man or at least get a divorce before having an affair. Real charmer, isn't she? I am a bit disappointed in Emma lending her name to this project. I also think her performance was nothing special at all and it was all about the looks and similarity this character offered to the real BJK that makes it memorable perhaps. The MVP is clearly Steve Carell, giving a performance that easily could have turned ridiculously bad, but did not thanks to S.C. hitting all the right notes, especially in the second hour. This is even more admirable as the character was not written too well built up as a main antagonist and then finally turned into a miserable weirdo. So Carell somewhat saved the film. The outcome eventually can be smelled from afar already and the crying scene in the dressing room afterward felt really cringeworthy as if they were trying to give the film more dramatic relevance than they had any right to. It works well together with King having egoistically sacked a commentator before the battle begins instead of showing him how it's done too with her performance. And back to the tears: If that commentator was really the bad guy and not Carell for whom it is just one big show, then why the emotional outburst? Because of the many people watching only? Hmmm I'm not buying it. But I guess, the film is easy to appreciate for those screaming sexism at Donald Trump day in and day out and those unleashing on Weinstein these days or on quality actors like Spacey, Tambor and Louis C.K. I thought the rule is innocent until proved guilty? Yep I am talking about you guys ready to give this review a thumbs-down now for saying things the way they are.

Finally, my take on equal pay that plays a big role here. Have women play as much as men and they get the same amount I'd say. Which means yes for smaller tournaments where all is best-of-3, but nay for Grand Slams. Female marathon runners won't stop after 25 kilometers either. Or swim less at the Olympics. Or run 600 instead of 800 m. Enough said. Back to this movie, it is a major disappointment. Carell can only save so much here sadly. It's a shoddy, generic and stereotypical take on female's rights and an even worse take on the wonderful sport of tennis. Go for Borg/McEnroe all along. Or go for all these wonderful films about Tilden vs. Lenglen, Renshaw vs. Dodd, Connors vs. Navratilova or (the best) Braasch vs. the Williams Sisters as I truly hope these will be getting attention as well to move things in order again. This one we have here gets a thumbs-down from me, partially also for the incompetently rushed-in same-sex marriage statement at the very end between the two gay characters. Why not make it even more political if they cannot deliver in any other field at all. Not recommended.
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Emma Stone and Steve Carell carry an uplifting, but overlong sports film
hunter-friesen22 October 2017
Battle of the Sexes is a an enjoyable retelling of the famous 1973 tennis match between 29-year-old Billie Jean King and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs. It was the match that sparked the women's movement in sport and planted King's status as the greatest tennis player in the world. We witness the personal journey she went though as she fought for equal rights in sports and society.

Emma Stone portrays Billie Jean King as a shy and reserved opportunist who's looking to make the best of her current situation. She's a true trailblazer that's pushing for equal rights for women in sports. Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs could not be more opposite from King. He's a retired tennis champion who can't stop gambling, which frustrates his wife to the point of no return. He's also a male chauvinist who believes in the superiority of men and how women should stay in the kitchen. It couldn't be a better battle between polar opposite personalities and motives.

The film follows the parallel journeys King and Riggs go through to get to their famous match. King struggles to gain equal pay for women tennis players, which eventually leads to the creation of her own women's tennis league. While traveling for matches, she discovers her homosexuality with her hairdresser, Marilyn. She's torn between her new desires and the life she already has with her husband, Larry. Riggs meanwhile is stuck in a midlife crisis and feels that his life has been missing something since he retired. He's passing his time through gambling and wants to plan a major comeback in the tennis world. Eventually their paths cross and results in one of the biggest and important sporting events in history.

Clocking in at 121 minutes, the film takes its sweet time to build up King and Riggs' story. While it's interesting to see their stories unfold, it goes on for too long and drags in the middle parts just before the climactic match. The sharing of screen time is also very lopsided towards King while Riggs is treated almost like a supporting character for the first hour.

Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris use their skills from Little Miss Sunshine to create a personal and emotional film. The tone of the film is pretty lighthearted and never gets too serious about the whole situation of equal rights among genders. It allows for a more feel-good sports film that is enjoyable to watch.

Shot in 70's style makes the film feel closer to a television documentary than a Hollywood production. There's a grab bag of awkward close-ups, grainy images, and off-balance shots that make the film feel more authentic and grounded in reality. The famous match is recreated with stunning detail and the biggest highlight of the film.

The acting is the saving grace of the film as Stone and Carell do an exceptional job portraying the real players. Golden Globe nominations will come for each of them and maybe even an Academy Award nomination for Stone. Sarah Silverman also shines as the rough and confident manager, Gladys. She plays well off Stone in the small amount of time she gets. Andrea Riseborough is solid as King's lover, Marilyn, who opens up King's hidden secrets and is the leading contributor to the emotional arc. Bill Pullman is the only person who doesn't pull of their role, as his sexist boss character is very one dimensional and almost cartoonish by the end.

Battle of the Sexes is a well acted and uplifting sports film that suffers from being too slow and too long. It doesn't run as smoothly as it should, but is enjoyable enough to rank among the better sports films out there, and definitely the best tennis film.
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It Thinks It Means Well But It Really Doesn't
Trevor Pacelli5 October 2017
A man and a woman take the stage here in 1972; the first, Billie Jean King, wins a tennis championship after a blurry match opens the titles; the second, Bobby Riggs, abandons his own family to gamble, often through his own tennis rounds. Right away, the men state how women are less publicly prevalent in tennis as men, meaning they get paid less as well. Sound familiar?

Battle of the Sexes follows much truer to history than you may think —allowing the real Billie Jean to oversee the production process proves the clear effort made to create a strong 21st century female role model. In the end, a fair point comes across: we need to reconsider our gamble in life.

The screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours, Slumdog Millionaire) still has potential for another future masterpiece based on his new display of well-crafted dialogue, as his style here enables each individual to realistically talk around their lies in a clever fashion. You can sense the depth behind these conflicted words, as only whatever matters to everyone's true values gets talked about.

The cast too expresses a strong desire to communicate the message about women empowerment, as most of them put in the best they could give. Oscar winner Emma Stone (Birdman, La La Land) portrays Billie Jean King with confidence to match her preparation for the role. Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Foxcatcher) portrays Billie Jean's ultimate rival with a considerable hardness that proves the comedian's effectiveness at drama. But I most enjoyed one of the smaller roles, Natalie Morales, who plays Billie Jean's stuck-up authoritative agent. Unfortunately, some of the male actors destroyed the perfect performance streak, particularly Austin Stowell, who plays Billie Jean's husband, and Alan Cumming, who plays a stereotypical British assistant thrown in mostly for comic relief. So sadly, not everyone in the cast and crew was truly passionate about its message of gender superiority.

In fact, almost nobody of redeemable quality supports the message's potential positive value. In essence, we don't even meet Billie Jean's husband until the midway point, which ends up feeling extremely joyless since beforehand, we see her sexual attraction toward her lesbian hairdresser come out in a moment of embracing and unzipping in a dark, steamy motel room. At this rate, why would I want to see an unfaithful wife succeed in her desire for fame and fortune?

As for Bobby, he appears to be nothing besides a depiction of the era's public mindset—an unmotivated woman hater. The balance in telling his story all throughout the feature is barely even there, as editor Pamela Martin (The Fighter, Little Miss Sunshine) leaves too long stretches of time away from Bobby's subplot. Even his climactic tennis match against the famed female star lacks any tension on his behalf, since no details are learned about what tennis means to either combatant.

The directorial appearance in particular lacks any artistic quality, from Emma Stone's fake black wig to needing to play "Where's Waldo" on the screen. What do I mean by that? Well, the two directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) unintentionally make you search harder than necessary to find the character talking. Their lack of screen control plays its greatest toll in the end, when the legendary match is viewed from far away into the audience bleachers, consequently ruining the intimacy of tennis. The cinematographer, Linus Sandgren, just won the Oscar last year for his colorful live action daydream, La La Land, but now his Steadicam work takes a massive step back into dull indie movie mode.

In the long run, the extreme preachiness may turn you off the most, since it forcefully tells you to accept its worldview on gender superiority. Similar to various feminist propaganda such as Thelma & Louise, Erin Brockovich, Frozen, Wonder Woman, and countless others, men are painted to look like the predators responsible for women's problems, which in this circumstance devalues heterosexual relationships and diminishes love to impulsive selfishness. Why do so many message films have to force such one-sided, surfacey conclusions? These events may have actually happened, yet the depiction of her affair straight up degrades straight married people. Bobby's marriage appears problematic until his wife decides to change in a submissive fashion, while Billie Jean's sole roadblock in her newfound love is her current husband? Give me a break.

Although my parents and I felt disappointed after walking out of the theater together, it led us into a rather in-depth discussion about our current treatment towards the LGBTQ community. Therefore, we as viewers ought to talk about these crucial ideas more, as listening to one another will help us realize the true blinded difference between the sexes.
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Not the great tennis breakthrough movie it might have been.
markgorman27 November 2017
Whilst Emma Stone puts down her marker for a possible third Oscar nomination the film as a whole left me slightly cold.  But then, when did you last see a GREAT tennis movie.  That's right.  You didn't.

But this potentially offered more because it appeared multi layered and could have been more nuanced than it is.

It tackles two themes simultaneously.  First, Billie Jean King's lesbian relationship with her hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) that eventually ended in controversy as she was publicly outed by her lover when they split in 1981.  Throughout King remained married to her first love Larry (played sympathetically but a little limply by Austin Stowell).  This is handled very tastefully and, for me, was the better part of the whole.

Second, and the source of the title, the movie explores sexism in the women's tennis game that led to her breaking away from the WTA and its sexist president, Jack Kramer (in an unconvincing performance by Bill Pullman), and taking on a challenge billed as THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES with 55 year old ex tennis champion and self proclaimed Male Chauvinist, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell).  

I disliked Carell's part greatly, not because he didn't perform it well but that it is written to make him out to be a complete idiot (which no doubt he was).  He becomes a character of himself quickly and I neither liked nor disliked him (I was annoyed by him though).  It all makes for a strange mix of comedy, politics, sexuality and revolt.

And the revolt was all too gentlemanly for me - despite the subject matter and the ire it must have stirred nobody really ever loses the plot and so the film lacks edge and dramatic tension.

What's more, it's 30 minutes too long and the overwrought soundtrack (Nicholas Britell - it really is a shocker) is over-pervasive and just plain annoying.

Emma Stone rarely puts a foot wrong in my view and at times you really do think BJK is on screen.  That part, and the general 70's styling of the movie, is excellent but it's ponderously directed and although the final shoot out between BJK and Riggs has an element of tension we all know the outcome and Britell's pomp and circumstance was gradually doing my nut in.

Just because you loved Little Miss Sunshine it does not follow that you will love this.
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Absolute Liberal Feminist Trash
jdquick-330892 October 2017
You will want to hurt yourself if you watch this movie. It is so untrue and suggests ridiculous things about the human race that separates us instead of uniting. This actually made me lose some hope in all of us. This movie had very little character development aside from describing Billie Jean King in a strong liberal political view. The entire movie suggests it is a true story, but it makes up many ridiculously exaggerated events and quotes.
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Forced and Awkward
MalShootsFirst30 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is about how Billie Jean King cheated on her loving husband with her lesbian hairdresser.

The filmmaker apparently thinks you're supposed to overlook adultery because... I don't know, LGBTQ something?

Billie Jean's husband may be the only not flawed character, and he's apparently supposed to be... what? the bad guy?

I came to see a movie of women's empowerment and I somehow found myself almost rooting for Bobby Riggs, especially since they made a point to say his chauvinism was just for show. Given that it's an actual historical event I'm glad Billie Jean won, but I mean damn. Seriously, what was the point of making Billie Jean a cheater? The whole movie just felt awkward and forced.

I look forward to a women's empowerment movie that doesn't somehow accidentally make women the villain of the story.
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When Billie Beat Bobby was much better and 30 minutes shorter
newchristmasdreams17 September 2017
The only thing that this film has that the television didn't is a bigger budget and not hiding Billie's sexuality. The screenplay is mediocre and doesn't really capture the 1970's. The television film also has much better actors and better screenplay.

Both films deal with the sexism the was women had to endure more in the 1970's. However this film does show that women were getting 1/2 the money men were getting playing the same sport.

Emma Stone is fine in the role of Billie. Steve Carell has makes a caricature out of Bobby Riggs and not really show his "human side". Yes Bobby was a real life cartoon but for a film that runs 30 minutes longer than its television counterpart it could of done a better job.

If you are looking for a good film to watch KEEP LOOKING
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A Doll's House Re-visited, Almost
rannynm6 October 2017
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.
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Great serve for entertainment and equality
benmccarthy19902 October 2017
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.
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Not the worst movie, but close.
jaydeninfanger11 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This was an awful movie with gross items and topics that overplayed the tennis match climax into an LGBTQ movie that if known at the time 0 people would have been watching this match in support of King. This was written mostly from King's view and simply is not accurate. This movie is about how the rich and the famous hide behind their fame and in truth showed Larry (King's wife) not divorcing his wife just for the fame and money when he found she was unfaithful. President Obama bless his heart awarded King for her being LGBTQ, and not for the actual winning of a man that was out of shape and just putting on a show.

Warning.. Don't let your kids watch this or you can say goodbye to their values.
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