Battle of the Sexes

(2017)

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Title:
Battle of the Sexes
Release Date:
22nd September 2017
Runtime:
121 min
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Genres:
Directors:
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writers:
Simon Beaufoy
Languages:
English
Stream Quality:
1080p / 720p / 480p

Storyline

In the wake of the sexual revolution and the rise of the women's movement, the 1973 tennis match between women's world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men's-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as the BATTLE OF THE SEXES and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time, reaching 90 million viewers around the world. As the rivalry between King and Riggs kicked into high gear, off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. The fiercely private King was not only championing for equality, but also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed. And Riggs, one of the first self-made media-age celebrities, wrestled with his gambling demons, at the expense of his family and wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue). Together, Billie and Bobby served up a cultural spectacle that resonated far beyond the tennis court, sparking discussions in bedrooms and boardrooms that continue to reverberate today.

Ratings

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 84%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience 75%
IMDb Rating 6.8

Casts

Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett
Emma Stone as Billie Jean King
Natalie Morales as Rosie Casals
Sarah Silverman as Gladys Heldman
Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by zkonedog 7th October, 2017

Losing The Forest For The Trees

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).

Reviewed by Calvin Staropoli 6th October, 2017

A tennis movie that's not really about tennis

The hardest thing about making one of these historical biopics is that everyone already knows exactly what happened. As I watched it with my mom, she would intermittently remind me that she did, in fact, watch the match happen when she was about 7 years old, and I'm sure many of the older folks in the theater remember it much more vividly. I just want to know, was the match in the film exciting for them at all? I mean, we all knew what was gonna happen, but I feel like having actually watched the match while it was really happening with no actual idea of who was gonna win is just way more exciting and could never compare to the film. That's why I'm glad the movie wasn't really about the match. It was more about Billie and Bobby. No one walked into this movie wondering who is gonna win the match. They went to see it to find out about the people who were playing it. One of them, as it turns out, was having a steamy lesbian affair with their hairdresser, and the others' marriage was being torn apart by a gambling addiction. The way the movie showcases the two players' secret lives is done well, but not amazingly, especially with Bobby Riggs. He has approximately 2 scenes with him and his wife, and it doesn't sell their relationship well. It sells it so poorly in fact, that at one point Rigg's wife actually has to remind him why she loves him in the first place. We get hints that she is mad at him with a classic clothes-out-the-window scene, but Elizabeth Shue plays Pricilla so unaffectedly that it really seems like she could care less, even when confessing her love for him. Their whole dynamic feels a bit forced and unsubstantial. Rigg's addiction problem is pretty hilarious to watch though, especially when he whips out a deck of cards at his gambler's anonymous meeting, proclaiming that they're not here because they're gamblers, they're here because they're bad gamblers Billie Jean and Marilyn's story is much more interesting. After one of the more intimate, beautifully shot and well-acted haircuts I've seen in a long time, Billie starts to feel a certain kinda way towards her hairdresser Marilyn, leading to a steamy romance. Is cheating on your husband a good thing? No. Is discovering your sexual preferences important? Yes. Basically, I'm torn. They have great on screen chemistry and I want to root for them, but cheating is bad, I guess. The movie doesn't really make clear what it wants you to think about Billie's affair, especially when Billie's husband Larry finds out about it (within his first 10 minutes on screen) and still is supportive of her up to the match. My one big gripe, though, is the fact that the final act of the movie is literally a tennis match. It's a great tennis match don't get me wrong, but if I wanted to watch Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs, I could have looked the match up on Youtube. Now obviously, they could not have just excluded the match from the film, but they fail to add ANY context to it that watching it on Youtube couldn't already provide. All we see is the two of them facing off, with frequent cuts to random characters reacting. It all just feels pointless. A good sports movie should take you behind the scenes to what you can't see with the telecast. I suppose that's an inherent problem with tennis movies. What you see is, for the most part, what you get. Luckily, the move doesn't dwell on the match itself for too long. After King emerges victorious in the face-off, Alan Cumming's Ted, the gay best friend, delivers a VERY not subtle moral to the story. Something along the lines of "one day we'll be able to be who we want to be and love who we want to love." So is this movie about women? Is it about lesbians? Is it about cheating? I don't know. It's kind of about all of those and also kind of about none of those. It's really just about a person who, with the whole world against her, overcame adversity and proved that she was stronger than anyone thought. So, it's a sports movie. A sports movie that just so happens to involve a lesbian affair. It's kind of a strange film if you think about it. Strange, but still pretty good. I recommend it if you're a fan of tennis, or feminism.

Reviewed by KnockKnock1 6th October, 2017

Watch

My wife and I support the ideas shown in this film, but the film itself isn't so great. The story line of each character seems under cooked. They are not that well rounded and this makes it more difficult to enjoy the movie. I am now going to recommend a better film that covers the same ground this one attempts to cover. It is called "When Billie Beat Bobby". It was shown on ABC in the late nineteen nineties. It starred Holly Robbins as King and Ron Silver as Briggs. Watch that instead. It is a far superior film despite both films sharing the same writer. My wife tells me it is on DVD so buy it and support good work.

Reviewed by Trevor Pacelli ([email protected]) 5th October, 2017

It Thinks It Means Well But It Really Doesn't

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.

Reviewed by jdesando 2nd October, 2017

Women and this film win big.

"You've come a long way, Baby." Virginia Slims' promo Although it is difficult to determine just how far women's rights and social equality have progressed in the last half century, the victory of Billie Jean King over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 tennis exhibition match was a spectacular publicity success for all movements where women fought male chauvinism on the court, in the courts, and in the home. Based on the real events, Battle of the Sexes is a successful film rendering of the battle for that equality. Besides, it's an entertaining docudrama. Emma Stone as King certifies herself as an actress of considerable range after her Oscar for the romantic La La Land. Steve Carell as Riggs is playful and cunning just like Riggs, who underestimated King's skill and savvy. The principals of this contest knew much more than money rode on its promotion, for chauvinists like Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) needed the lesson that women were worth the same money as male athletes. Besides, the world itself needed to change its attitude about the inferiority of women. Acclaimed directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris faithfully and impressively recreate the '70's with such jewels as a sound track featuring Crimson and Clover and Rocket Man. The directors valiantly though sometimes abruptly cut between the two camps, frequently stressing King's emerging gay interest in hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). While dramatizing this facet of the LGBT movement, the filmmakers allow the sequences involving the lovers to be at times too long and obvious. Yet, as I think of how difficult it is for gay athletes even today to be up front about their sexuality, I must commend the depiction in this film. Although freedom of choice was undoubtedly a sub theme, the game afoot was tennis, and Riggs and King were clown and queen. It was great entertainment that this docudrama gets about perfectly right. And let's thank the Williams sisters for carrying the torch into modern life with dignity.