By John A. Reese
The Cincinnati Herald
“Battle of the Sexes” is the true story of the 1973 tennis match between the World’s number one female tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Ex-champ and gambler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).
Emma Stone shines in the role of Billie Jean King. She becomes Billie Jean King, and it is arguably her best performance to date. She is definitely guaranteed to get an Oscar nomination this year. Carell also shines in his role of Riggs. It is a good fit for him as it plays to his comedic background. However, the movie belongs to Stone. She also has good scenes with her lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Risenborough). Their chemistry is believable, and makes up the heart of the film.
The film balances comedy and drama in a very effective way. It captures the vibe and tone of the 1970’s perfectly, especially when the film blends in new performances with archive footage. For example, tennis player Rosie Casals (Natalie Morales) blends in perfectly with archival footage of Howard Cosell when they are covering the legendary 1973 tennis match between King and Riggs.
In addition, “Battle of the Sexes” handles the topic of feminism pretty well. To this day feminism remains a touchy and controversial subject among many people. However, the film does not get preachy about the subject, and the topic is fairly represented in the movie.
The only flaw in the film is that it is not a must-see movie. It has the feel of a made-for-TV film. That is not to say that it is bad movie. It is actually a well-crafted film, but not a movie that does not have to be seen on the big screen.
In addition, while I did appreciate the film for focusing on King’s exploration of her sexuality, it did not really show what happened to King after her affair with Barnett. In real life Barnett outed her, and King lost all of her sponsorships. She had to keep playing tennis years after her prime just to make a living. If the movie would have explored that period in her life, then the film could have risen above your average TV movie. It probably would have been Best Picture material.
Still, “Battle of the Sexes” is a good film with an excellent performance from Stone, and to a lesser extent, a good performance from Carell. The movie is a little too TV for my taste, but Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton do a good job with the material they were given. Rating: 3 out of 4 stars