Battle of the Sexes: Movie Review

Updated on October 25, 2017
popcollin profile image

Collin's been a movie critic since 2009. In real life he works in marketing and is also a novelist ("Good Riddance" published in Oct 2015).

Battle of the Sexes
Battle of the Sexes | Source

In the late summer of 1973, the country was abuzz with the impending Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Now, some four decades later, the awards circuit is abuzz with the feature film about that famous match, and I’m frankly at a loss as to why. While Emma Stone and Steve Carell turn in fine performances as King and Riggs, the movie itself is a meandering examination of King’s sexuality more than a re-telling of the gonzo tennis match (and all its made-for-TV build-up), as the trailer implies.

The end result is something that might have played better as an indie, art-house film about King struggling with her identity, though it doesn’t tackle that successfully, either—relying on pretty much every cliche in the book during what should be the film’s most touching moments.

It seems like co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) couldn’t make up their mind about what kind of film they wanted Battle of the Sexes to be, and in their effort to do everything, they did none of it particularly well. The film shifts from a light-hearted, vintage 70s vibe to the soft-focus/tight close-up feel of a Lifetime movie feel as King begins her relationship with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). And then for the all-tennis finale, Dayton and Faris stage almost everything as we’re watching on TV from high above the crowd, presumably to hide the fact that it’s not Stone and Carell playing the actual tennis.

Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, who has dazzled in the past with his scripts for The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire, and 127 Hours, does little to help, presenting the women’s-lib message with only a series of half-hearted vignettes while giving far more time to King and her internal struggles. In addition there’s little background or context for the heart of the story to build off of; we’re plunked into 1973 America and supposed to immediately grasp the breadth of the ridiculous prejudices and chauvinism women were facing at that time.

Stone, despite (distractingly) looking nothing like King, does her usual quality work, though it’s certainly a softened characterization of a woman who was much more direct and in-your-face. It’s disappointing that Beaufoy and company didn’t think we could handle the real-life King’s personality, instead deciding to portray her as America’s racquet-wielding sweetheart. Carell is the one who steals the show, completely capturing Riggs’ buffoonery while also portraying the much more compelling and heartfelt man out of the spotlight; his quiet-moment scenes with wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue) are the film’s best.

There’s still debate to this day as to whether the tennis match was a watershed moment in the history of feminism or just a spectacle that ended up serving little purpose but to entertain the country for a few hours in September 1973, but whatever the end result was, surely it deserved better than this half-baked movie all these years later.

Rating

2.5/5 stars

'Battle of the Sexes' trailer

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)