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BATTLE OF THE SEXES, a match of acting skills

battle-of-the-sexes-a-match-of-acting-skills

Battle of the Sexes is a story about men and women, as you can surely imagine from the title, but it's actually so much more than that because Steve Carell (The Office, Dinner for Schmucks, The Big Short) and Emma Stone (La La Land, Irrational Man, Magic in the Moonlight) are involved. The two actors have visible chemistry and their humor goes hand in hand with the drama and the politics.

The story of how the American tennis courts became a gender battlefield in the early 70s was nicely told in James Erskine and Zara Hayes’s 2013 documentary The Battle of the Sexes. About 90 million people watched Billie Jean King take on self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs in the titular 1973 game, which was less a tennis match than a big sociological showoff. Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton's Battle of the Sexes dramatizes those events and manages to be both emotionally engaging and politically intriguing.

The movie begins in 1972, with the 28-year-old King (Stone) at the top of her game. “The men are simply more exciting to watch,” King is told. “Stronger, faster, more competitive.” Throughout the movie, with the help of game-changing promoter Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman), Key and her female peers take control of their destiny, signing up to the newly established Women’s Tennis Association. The path to gaining the male peers' respect is paved with struggles of identity, focus on the court and many ridiculous confrontations that keep any adrenaline junky going.

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Written by Slumdog Millionare scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy, "this terrifically entertaining film generates a rally of responses (tears, cheers, laughter) as it shifts from poignant LGBT love story to powerful human drama against a backdrop of excellently evoked historical upheaval. Beneath the cartoonish, grudge-match surface (“male chauvinist pig versus hairy-legged feminist!”), the film-makers find parallels between their alpha antagonists, rivals with conflicting private lives and public personae who become the yin and yang of a media circus beyond their control." (The Guardian)

"The Little Miss Sunshine directing duo, Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, give us a good time. The music helps: they have an unflagging, high-energy score from Nicholas Britell (Moonlight) on side to grease the wheels, cheerleading King whenever its hopeful main theme pipes up. And they allow nuance in when they’re trying. [...] Perhaps a deeper interaction between the players could have beefed up Beaufoy’s script – they became good friends after the media circus died down, even though he begged for a rematch. King spoke to Riggs a day before his death in 1995 and talks of him as one of her heroes. This shaded, rather sad, aftermath might be beyond the film’s purview – it’s glued, at the end of the day, to everything at stake in the face-off. And there’s no begrudging it that." (Telegraph)

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"In a performance tinged with comedy and pathos, Carrell captures Riggs’s sleaziness, his chutzpah and his childlike quality. If he is a male chauvinist pig, he is a strangely likeable one. He promotes his matches first with the priggish, ultra-religious Margaret Court, and then with Billie Jean, as if he is a pantomime jester.

He understands that this isn’t just about tennis or gender and equal pay. It’s a ratings-driven, reality TV style circus in which every participant will benefit financially, whatever the cost to his or her dignity. He is always ready with a quip if he thinks it will sell more tickets, or attract more TV viewers. His goal is to put the “show” back in chauvinism." (Indepedent)

"A revolution can be tough to squeeze into two hours, but “Battle of the Sexes” manages it mostly by skipping along its handsome surfaces. The film repeatedly announces that there’s a lot at stake here, but without much urgency or sting. Bobby’s sexist pronouncements are outrageous, but his stunts are so absurd and self-serving that they’re hard to take seriously. And while Mr. Carell bounces and sags persuasively, the characterization is finally so soft that Bobby comes off as more needy and pathetic than threatening. The better foil and villain is a tennis promoter, Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), one of those men who never bothers to hide his contempt for women." (New York Times)

Check out the trailer below.

Tags:   news, comedy, trailer, Battle of the Sexes, film news

Related:   Dinner for Schmucks, The Office, La La Land, Battle of the Sexes


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