Movie Review – Battle of the Sexes

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Movie Review – Battle of the Sexes

Category : Movie Review

Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell

Year: 2017

Little Miss Sunshine was a big deal for both budding directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris and for comedic actor Steve Carell, a chance to show that they were more than audiences assumed.  For the directorial duo, it was an opportunity to move past music videos, and for Carell, the moment to prove that he was more than The Office and The 40-Year-Old Virgin.  I think it’s safe to say that all emerged from that film having earned our respect with a tremendous display of talent, the team meeting up again for Battle of the Sexes and looking for the same success.  The new ingredient is Emma Stone, who recently had her own breakthrough with Birdman, which opened the door to La La Land, which led to stardom, and the rest is soon to be history.  Here, all involved work incredibly hard to bring audiences a believable portrayal of a fascinating moment not just in sports, but in equality, and if you’ll forgive the pun, they aced it.

This is the true story of the historic male/female tennis match that proved to the nation that the chauvinistic ways of the old world were dying out, that women were here to compete, and that you had better get out of the way if you didn’t want to, quite literally, get served.  Billie Jean King was the best women’s tennis player in the world, and she had just spearheaded a new league, one that didn’t pay the ladies far less than the gentlemen because of antiquated ideas of gender superiority.  Bobby Riggs was a former #1 in the sport himself, some years back, but had turned into more of a showman, a gambler, and a hustler.  The two would meet in an epic match between the sexes with a ton to prove.  For Bobby, it was a chance to make a quick buck and to make women look bad at the same time, a win-win.  For Billie Jean, it meant much more, and she was determined to show exactly that on the court in front of the entire country.

Stay with me for a second; I’m really hard on Emma Watson.  I think she’s proven, over her recent performances post-Potter, that she isn’t a great actress.  She’s undeniably lovable and captivating, but her talent doesn’t match how good we want her to be, which is honestly a shame.  Emma Stone, apart from sharing the same first name, shares the ability to draw audiences to her; basically, she’s special and we can see it.  But the difference is that Stone has the chops to back it up, and she continues to prove that with every role.  She dominates the screen as King in this film, leaving all others in the dust, including her talented co-star and a pair of strong directors.  She, along with an incredibly important true story, is the reason to see this picture.  Otherwise, it’s a bit overlong, a bit over-dramatic, and the supporting cast in no way supports anything, failing to do their jobs because they simply aren’t good enough.  Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Fred Armisen, Martha MacIsaac, Austin Stowell; I’ve liked some of these actors in other movies, but here they’re basically minor leaguers playing and losing in the majors.  Watch for Stone’s incredible performance, for Carell’s entertaining one, and for a bit of tennis lore that means far more.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆