‘Battle of the Sexes’ Serves up a Clunky Script, Lifeless Pic

Battle of the Sexes

Sexism is an ongoing issue in our society, one that has deep roots in the past and that leads to intractable resistance to any attempts at equal pay and equal rights. In the ‘70s, the push for gender equality made waves in a number of areas in American life, including the attempts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment. But perhaps nothing took the topic of gender equality to the masses as the famed tennis match that pitted 55-year-old Bobby Riggs against 29-year-old Billie Jean King. On the tennis court, a national debate played out as sport and is now the subject of a feature film from the directing duo of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton. Battle of the Sexes has plenty of material that might speak to the modern zeitgeist and the lingering effects of sexism in our society, but instead it plays out like a parody of itself, a movie where the message is written bold-faced type as it fails to bring its competitors on equal ground as interesting characters.

In the early ‘70s, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) was atop the women’s tennis circuit, but the inability of tennis promoter Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman) to grant equal pay to the women players causes King and Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) to create their own women’s tennis tour. Meanwhile, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is trying to make the most out of his life now that he’s off the tennis court. The former champion works in an office job that leaves him cold. He still hits the tennis court as a means for money, gambling with wealthy players at a local country club though his gambling is a problem for his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue). Eventually, Riggs gets the idea that a competition between himself and the ascendant Billie Jean King could net him some celebrity and some money. At first King rejects his offers. Once Riggs takes on a defeats women’s champion Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), King and Riggs agree to a showdown in the Houston Astrodome, $100,000 to the winner of the nationally televised tennis spectacle.

Battle of the Sexes places a majority of its focus on Billie Jean King and the strong performance by Emma Stone. It also focuses quite extensively on the tennis star coming to terms with her sexuality, engaging in a lesbian affair with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). It’s certainly an aspect of Billie Jean King’s life that’s worth exploring in this story, especially considering just how far the gay rights movement had to go, but it really distracts the film’s focus on the competing personalities. This isn’t helped by the script Simon Beaufoy, who undercuts this forbidden romance with a countless array of clichés including a brief split which has Marilyn returning moments before the big match and the words of wisdom from the gay dressmaker Ted Tinling (Alan Cumming). The sexuality of Billie Jean King isn’t bungled any worse than every other aspect of Battle of the Sexes.

A major problem with Battle of the Sexes is its imbalance in examining these two characters. The predominant focus of the film is on Billie Jean King. Despite the fact that she’s a sports and civil rights icon and Emma Stone gives a strong, nuanced performance, she’s the less interesting of the two competitors. Bobby Riggs and his hucksterism to make this happen is much more entertaining, but the character is often pushed to the sidelines. Long stretches of the film simply forget that Carell and his bombastic take on Riggs are part of the picture and the film greatly suffers for it. There’s the question as to how much of the chauvinism that Riggs became the poster boy for was genuine and how much was a ploy to prolong is celebrity for just a little bit longer and for a few dollars more.

Battle of the Sexes is the type of movie that you wished they put as much time into the script as they did replicating the aesthetic of the ‘70s. The dialogue is so blunt with its messaging you can envision the script having “THIS IS THE MESSAGE!” written and underlined on the margins of the page. The most galling moments of sexism don’t come from the leaden dialogue but from archival footage of Howard Cosell’s casual commentary reinforcing outdated sexist tropes. Attempts at humor fall flat and the drama never materializes beyond the most surface elements.

Never at any point does Battle of the Sexes achieve a rhythm to its story. The dialogue is overwhelming with its clichés and lack of wit. The pacing to the story is always off. Stranded in this lifeless flick are two solid performances by Emma Stone and Steve Carell, but they’re given little to work off of. Battle of the Sexes is just a flat biopic that more often than not feels like a bad parody. Billie Jean King is a great American who was willing to take on the worst aspects of our society and emerge victorious. Too bad there’s not a movie capable of honoring her legacy with a distinct personality worthy of its subject.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

No Responses

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
I, Tonya
All the Dazzle of ‘I, Tonya’ Can’t Save it From its Massive Tonal Issues

The tabloid infamy of Tonya Harding was just begging to be...

Spider-Man: Homecoming
You Can Win Spidey’s Suit From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ with a New Exclusive Box Set

Listen up, web-heads. This summer, Spider-Man swung back into action and...

Operation Petticoat
The Submarine Comedy ‘Operation Petticoat’ Swims Onto Blu-ray

Blake Edwards is best known for his collaborations with Peter Sellers...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Laser League
These Lasers Cut Straight to the Chase – Laser League Impressions

Don’t blink for a second or you’ll be destroyed by a...

A Way Out
A Way Out is a Game That Truly Understands Co-Op Gaming

EA and Hazelight announce a Friends Pass Free Trial for co-op...

Jupiter and Mars
[PSX] Explore the Technicolor Apocalypse with Jupiter and Mars

I know it’s wrong, but Jupiter and Mars kind of makes me...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
8.3/10
‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

9.5/10
Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

viz media
Viz Media Digital Manga Update for November

TLDR Viz Media announced its digital manga update for November will...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Manga Spice Cafe
A Little Taste of Japan in a Box – Manga Spice Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered what Japanese People snack on while they...

Star Wars Fashion
2017 Star Wars Fashion Gifts for the Star Wars Fans In Your Life

Here are our 2017 Star Wars Fashion Gift ideas for the...

Star Wars iPhone Case
HEX Releases Star Wars iPhone Case Collection

Feel the Force every time you pick up your phone with...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
AXS TV Closes NJPW’s ‘G1 Climax 27’ With Four Episodes From The Final Weekend Beginning Friday Oct. 13

Los Angeles, CA (Oct. 11, 2017) – “Rainmakers” and “High Fly...

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Rocky Romero has created an auction to raise money for UNIDOS por Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

I’m The costume was worn by Rocky during the final Roppongi...

Douglas Lima Defends his Bellator Welterweight Title Against Rory MacDonald at the Forum on 1/20

LOS ANGELES – One year removed from its previous event at...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
batman ninja
Is That Racist? – Batman Ninja Trailer

Nope, this is not a joke. Set to release on DVD...

Cultural Junkdrawer ‘Avengers Infinity War’: Analysis, Conjecture and Outright Lies

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Analysis Conjecture Outright lies   A nearly second...

Fanboynation’s 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

The holidays are almost upon us. It’s Black Friday as this...

Event News Event Reviews
truedark
Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

wondercon anaheim
WonderCon Anaheim 2018 Attendee Badges On Sale

Brought to you by the same team that puts on Comic-Con...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...