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Oscar season is rolling in, and we’re starting to see some of the smaller, story-driven movies hit theaters! This week Battle of the Sexes is one of those movies being released in a few theaters around the nation, and I was lucky enough to give it a look! I thought that Battle of the Sexes had one of the best trailers of the year, and the casting is absolutely perfect. This is the first time we’ve seen Emma Stone since her big Oscar win for her role in La La Land, so I had to watch this movie with her back-to-back Oscar chances in-mind. Also, Steve Carell looked nearly identical to Bobby Riggs, and if you need an example of what he can do when he morphs into a character, check out Foxcatcher. He might be known for his comedy chops, but he has layers and layers of dramatic talent.
Battle of the Sexes is directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and stars Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Natalie Morales, and Jessica McNamee. Billie Jean King, played by Emma Stone, is the number one female tennis player in the world. If you’re thinking that a title like that comes with a lot of power, you’d be dead wrong. To earn the respect she deserves, she must take on Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carell, the man with his eyes set on stealing the title from Billie Jean.
Did we end up getting an Oscar movie in the middle of September? Well, I don’t think that this should be the Best Picture leader, but I do think we ended up getting a heck of a crowd-pleaser. This movie works because it completely sells its main character. It’s impossible not to stand behind Billie Jean King, and I was connected to her from the opening scene. I love how she’s written, and Emma Stone brings her to life so beautifully in what is possibly the best performance of the year. She speaks directly, but she also puts her emotions on display and peels back the layers of her mind, and so often we see the nuances of her extremely complex character in every shot. She’s also able to address relevant issues, as she should. She was experiencing a few different social issues first-hand, and she used her personal experiences and her platform to tackle them. Though she’s fighting a bloody war, she always takes the high road with no need to use put-downs, insults, or trash-talk. I also walked out of this movie with a serious sense of satisfaction. There are plenty of moments that are meant to satisfy the audience, and they all work. They’re all emotionally fulfilling. There are times in the film where I wanted to stand up and pump my fist, and it’s all because of the way the character moments drew me in.
I do have a couple of issues with the film. First of all, I didn’t love Bobby Riggs as a character. I know that I wasn’t supposed to love Bobby Riggs, but I didn’t love what the film did with him as a plot device. He never really frustrated me to the point where I was completely sold on him as an antagonist. In fact, there are multiple points where I genuinely felt for him as a second protagonist. There’s even a point in the script where I have to believe the filmmakers realized that he wasn’t unlikable enough, so he flips a switch and instantly becomes awful. At that point, the awfulness never really felt warranted or earned. Actually, he’s tough to take seriously. Everything he says is just a big joke. By the end of the film, his importance somewhat justifies what he becomes, but it doesn’t justify what he represents. By the end, Riggs isn’t King’s issue. Her issue is with public perception due to what media gives off, but Riggs represents the core of the issues she faces. Instead he comes off as a fake comedian. Finally, there are a few scenes that didn’t sell the gravity of certain situations. Sometimes scenes push it much too far when going for the big cheer or the powerful moment instead of allowing the powerful moments to feel themselves out. At some points, it feels like a larger budget was pumped into a television movie, and it took me out of the story.
Overall, Battle of the Sexes is an extremely satisfying movie because of its main character. Emma Stone gives an excellent performance, and her actions speak so much louder than her words. She doesn’t use her words often to stand up for what she believes in. She takes action to make change, and that makes her effective. At most points, I wanted to stand up and clap because of the pleasing moments, and this became one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen in 2017. Carell’s Bobby Riggs didn’t quite get me as upset as I would have liked, and there are points that feel like inflated television movie moments, but I loved my time in the theater with this movie. I’m going to give Battle of the Sexes a 7.5/10.
Will you be checking out Battle of the Sexes? Comment down in the comment section and let me know! As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!