D.C.’s Take: “Battle of the Sexes”

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  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. 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. 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. 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. B
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