Emma Stone will for sure get a Oscar nomination for BATTLE OF THE SEXES. She is quite brilliant in it. However, something about the movie was off for me where I quite can’t recommend it as the best version of the Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs tennis match that was so much more than a match. It was probably because the movie tried to focus on another big issue in King’s life than the actual match and what it meant for women around the world, where it feels like two separate movies crammed into one. This power struggle of storytelling gets in the way of showing a little more of Bobby Rigg’s life up to the match and relegates a lot of his antics to montages that should’ve been their own longer scenes. I was really hoping to love this movie and proclaim it a masterpiece, instead, it’s watchable, but I know it could’ve been so much better.
Why could’ve there have been a separate film about the life of Billie Jean King, her struggles with homosexuality, her life after the world found out, could’ve made a great biopic film. With maybe a couple of minutes with this sliced into it. Heck, they could’ve focused on events surrounding this tennis match for this film, and hire Emma Stone again to do a complete biopic tale of King. But the fact that they try to do two movies in one, just makes everything feel…well bloated. The focus on getting ready for the actual tennis match, and the match itself starts in the last 30 minutes of the movie, and the movie is two hours long.
Not that there was anything wrong with the Billie Jean King discovering her sexuality part. It was handled well and acted with perfection, I just thought tonally it was in the wrong movie and should’ve been on its own. I think that because of this storyline being in there it kind of gave the shaft to Steve Carrell and his portrayal of Bobby Riggs. I went into the movie wanting to know more about Riggs, and had questions, and I left the theater with not one question answered. I thought the movie would give equal time to both players, but nope, I felt Carrell wasn’t in the movie all that much. He was even short changed in the epilogue I thought as well. So I thought the something missing from this movie, was Bobby Riggs, even though the Battle of the Sexes match was supposed to be 50% about him.
You could argue that discovering her homosexuality fit in the storyline with women’s lib and the pursuit of equality. I thought the scenes of her basically quitting the tennis league because they were paying men more than they were woman completely belonged and worked in this film, When it which to her realizing she was a lesbian, it just felt tonally off. Like I was watching a biopic of just her, and not of the tennis match that defined a generation and not digging into the persona of Bobby Riggs. Also, the final match wasn’t shot too terribly exciting. Instead of doing some great sports shots directors have been known to get in these films, I felt bored and that I was just watching it on television. Nothing inspiring.
So in essence, two decent short films, but combining them, a feature with a lot of narrative problems. Incredible acting, directing, and the film had that great 70s feel where it feels like it was shot on film. It’s a decent one time Netflix watch, but not the film that it should’ve been. It should’ve been one of the films for feminism to watch, study, and celebrate. Instead, it will be lost in the queue, with other films more than deservedly being remembered for it in its place.