Battle of the Sexes (2017)
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Battle of the Sexes tells the true story of a Billie Jean King's historic woman-on-man tennis match with hustling aging champion Bobby Riggs. Or rather, its several stories. Building up to that feminism vs. chauvinism contest are each of the competitors' tales. Bille Jean (Emma Stone) is in a drama about discovering one's sexuality while having the fate of women's tennis on her shoulders. Bobby (Steve Carell) is in a hustler comedy à la Wolf of Wall Street or The Big short, indulging in all sorts of shenanigans to distract himself from accepting he's a gambling addict. But make no mistake, it's her story more than his; it's just that her antagonist lives in a world apart. Which is perhaps part of the point. One of the things the film does well is showing the casual sexism of the early 70s, more upfront but no less malignant than today's, and the tennis sequences, of course, are very well done. A well-acted and entertaining biopic, but not one that transcends the genre. It's a little too obvious for that, I think.
Battle of The Sexs misses on a lot of its marks. And that's probably because it's three movies in one. On one side you have BJK vs. The Woman's Tennis association (or whatever); you have Bobby Riggs a hustler with an Ace up his sleeve; and then you have BJK coming to grips with her sexuality and the implications that come with that in 1972.
The pacing was fine, but the multiple stories competing against each other really hindered the overall emotional tone of this movie. As it always felt like one or another of the storylines was undercutting whichever was in play at the moment. It even seemed uncertain of which direction it wanted to go itself a good portion of the time. As the titled "Battle of The Sexs" doesn't even come underway till about halfway through the film. The acting was strong to say the least, with Sarah Silverman delivering potentially one her best roles. Emma stone probs grabs a nom for the last scene alone.
But even so, all you have left with at the end is a muddied story with good acting. It should be seen, but temper expectations
I wish I knew what this movie was before going in. It's multiple things at the same time, but it was marketed only as one of those things. You initially think it's about Billie Jean King facing off against a male chauvinist, retired legend Bobby Riggs, because that's how the trailers portray it. Then you find out that that's actually just part of an even wider struggle to get women's tennis on the same level as men's tennis.
Then it introduces a romance subplot, which drags out so long until you realize oh god it's not a subplot, it's another main plot. About 40 minutes into the movie, there wasn't a single tennis match, and most of it had been this chemistry-free romance backdropped by a tennis tour you don't get to see. It's a lesbian romance in the 70s, so maybe its secrecy made it the way it was? I felt 0 chemistry there, and the love interest was honestly just annoying.
Then suddenly it drops the romance plot and switches full on into tennis, and it's 20 minutes of tennis, with completely uninspired directing. Have the makers of this movie ever seen a sports movie? It's cool to have a couple shots that look like a telecast, but I felt no emotional investment in it. It didn't feel like I was there. Maybe that's the point, that it's like I'm watching it on TV. That's not why I want to watch a film though.
Superb acting by Carrell and Stone. Sarah Silverman was perfectly cast for the role she played, and I loved every line she delivered. Otherwise, the writing was weak, the plot was scattered, and the cinematography was uninspired. Overall, I'd give it a 4/10.
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