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 ...Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
A Simple Feel-good Story with some Subtlety Issues
A light, fluffy, sweet treat, Battle of the Sexes is assuredly a crowd-pleasing movie. But much like cotton candy-the movie offers very little to digest.
Overall, the movie will win over most viewers with its familiar feel-good true story angle. If you liked 2016's Hidden Figures, chances are that this is a movie for you.
It strives for and ultimately achieves the classic feel-good movie moments. Hero activist beats chauvinist pig. Good triumphs over evil. Or something like that. There is no deeper exploration. There is no hard-hitting, brutal honesty. The examinations are superficial and dive no deeper than the surface.
Basically, movie is too simple. But sexism and the problems that it causes are complicated. In the movie, everything is spelled out in a painfully obvious way. It condescends to make sure that everyone understands. The sexist characters come out in shameless and laughably overt ways. The good person defeats the bad person and everyone cheers. It's a fairy tale ending, hooray! But none of that is realistic.
Sexist and discriminatory people in power don't publicly profess their feelings in such blunt ways. So, when the movie scenes portray characters as loud and proud sexists, I can only roll my eyes. I know the movie uses these exaggerated characters and moments to make the situation abundantly clear to the audience. I just prefer a bit of subtlety.
Instead, the movie handles the delicate, nuanced topics of sexism and repression of homosexuality with the blunt force of a lumberjack with a giant axe. Wrong professional and wrong tool. We needed a surgeon with medical instruments.
The movie still has its upside. Steve Carell and Emma Stone are charming and wonderful, which is an amazing feat considering the character that Carell plays. Bobby Riggs (Carell) flaunts his chauvinism in such a flamboyant manner that showmanship is clearly his primary focus. This is one detail that the movie gets right, thanks largely to Carell. Riggs doesn't actually believe the gross, archaic things he says about women. It's an act. He says them to attract interest in the upcoming Man vs. Woman tennis match with Billie Jean King (Stone).
The storytelling is clear, even if not always smooth. The combination of King's life-changing romance along with the battle of the sexes tennis match fit awkwardly. Though, I'm sure those two things also fit awkwardly in King's life at the time, so I accept the somewhat clumsy clash of the two storylines.
Again, if you liked Hidden Figures, you will like Battle of the Sexes. It's uplifting and sends a valuable and inspiring message to young girls everywhere. On that basis, I applaud the movie. Despite its flaws, it's still a story worthy of knowing.
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