Battle of the Sexes Review

It’s Os­car sea­son, and that’s usu­ally the best time for stu­dios to re­lease their films that they hope will be con­sid­ered one of the best of the year, pos­si­bly push­ing to be a real con­tender for the golden stat­uette. So what bet­ter way to get peo­ple’s at­ten­tion than a sports movie com­ing out at just the right time? Rarely do we get biopics about the sport of ten­nis, but luck­ily, “Bat­tle of the Sexes” is here to rep­re­sent.

The film is based on the 1973 ten­nis match be­tween Bil­lie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which be­came one of the most watched tele­vised sports events of all time. Trapped in the me­dia glare, King and Riggs were on op­po­site sides of a bi­nary ar­gu­ment, but off-court, each was fight­ing more per­sonal and com­plex bat­tles. With her hus­band urg­ing her to fight for equal pay, the pri­vate King was also strug­gling to come to terms with her own sex­u­al­ity, while Riggs gam­bled his legacy and rep­u­ta­tion in a bid to re­live the glo­ries of his past.

Emma Stone and Mickey Sumner in Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Who would’ve thought that 2017 would have two films fo­cus­ing on ten­nis? “Borg vs McEn­roe,” a film about the ri­valry about Björn Borg and John McEn­roe, and now “Bat­tle of the Sexes.” Be­fore this, I did­n’t know any­thing about the fa­mous ten­nis match. But with a cre­ative en­sem­ble and team be­hind it, maybe this film might be wor­thy.

Safe to say, there’s a lot to en­joy about “Bat­tle of the Sexes”.

Di­rect­ing duo Jonathan Day­ton and Va­lerie Faris (“Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine”) and writer Si­mon Beau­foy (“Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire”) per­fectly cap­tured the ‘70s so au­then­ti­cally. From the way it’s filmed, the film looks like it al­most could have come out in the ‘70s. The plot is­n’t mainly about the ac­tual match, but in­stead fo­cuses on the strug­gles of both play­ers in their per­sonal lives, which was some­thing I was­n’t ex­pect­ing. Also, the script does a great job of flesh­ing out the other char­ac­ters.

On a side note: The score, by “Moon­light” com­poser Nico­las Britell, was bril­liant.

Bobby Riggs was known for be­ing a male chau­vin­ist pig. This film even shows that he’s a con­stant hus­tler, try­ing to gain money at any cor­ner while get­ting at­ten­tion. Riggs, as an ex-ten­nis player, came to rep­re­sent all men any­time he played a match. He’d go crazy try­ing to put on a show. Steve Car­rel as Riggs per­fectly han­dles this per­for­mance, and it’s one of his best per­for­mances.

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes (2017)

Bil­lie Jean King is one of the few ten­nis play­ers I’ve heard of. Dur­ing the ‘70s, she was ris­ing the ranks as one of the best play­ers in fe­male ten­nis. Also at the time, she was fight­ing for gen­der equal­ity; she wanted to prove that any woman could play any sport. Women weren’t get­ting paid as much money as men. Emma Stone has a spe­cial place in my heart as one of my fa­vorite ac­tresses work­ing to­day. Her por­trayal of King is per­fect, and she car­ries the movie in a great way. She brings a lot of charm into her per­for­mance, and none of it seems fake. Per­son­ally, I think this is the third best per­for­mance I’ve seen from her, right be­hind “La La Land” and “Easy A”.

There’s also a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship be­tween King and her hair­dresser Mar­i­lyn Bar­nett (An­drea Rise­bor­ough), and the chem­istry be­tween the two is ter­rific and pro­vides some of my fa­vorite mo­ments of the film en­tirely. The film toys with the dif­fi­cult ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ship be­tween Bar­nett and her de­voted hus­band Larry King (Austin Stow­ell).

When it all comes down to the ac­tual match, it’s en­ter­tain­ing to watch who wins. Even though it hap­pened 44 years ago, “Bat­tle of the Sexes” keeps you riv­eted, with every swing be­ing doc­u­mented on film. Never did I imag­ine that ten­nis would keep my in­ter­est.

As for flaws, it did be­gin to feel a bit long around the mid­dle marker. Also, I re­ally thought the film was go­ing to be about Riggs and King the en­tire time and per­haps oc­ca­sion­ally fo­cus on other mo­ments. In the end, it’s ba­si­cally about King, which does­n’t even con­cern me.

Will this have a chance in get­ting into the Os­car race? Quite pos­si­bly. It could get nom­i­na­tions for Best Pic­ture, and Stone could get a nom­i­na­tion for Best Ac­tress.

“Bat­tle of the Sexes” came out at a very ap­pro­pri­ate time; it feels like most peo­ple think men are bet­ter than women at every­thing. It’s be­com­ing a prob­lem in our so­ci­ety to­day, be­cause many peo­ple think fem­i­nism is a joke and com­plain for no rea­son what­so­ever. Some may even com­pare this film to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. At least Riggs is more tol­er­a­ble than Trump.

Steve Carell and Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes (2017)

In the end, “Bat­tle of the Sexes” is an im­por­tant movie to come out now, and it’s a sports drama that’s go­ing to be talked about into the fu­ture. Nor­mally, we don’t get enough sports movies fea­tur­ing women. The per­for­mances were well-acted, en­ter­tain­ing and fo­cused on a ri­valry that goes much deeper than its sur­face. I can’t say I loved it, but it’s worth check­ing out.

Bat­tle of the Sexes” pulled to­gether strong per­for­mances and a timely story that’s rel­e­vant in this sports biopic.

Grade: B

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