Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Battle of the Sexes

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

In the past month, many exemplary women have come out & bravely announced that they had been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped by their male co-workers & men in positions of power. The main story has focused around Harvey Weinstein, the founder & former president of Miramax & The Weinstein Company. Since then, more women have come out against their abusers, both in & out of the film industry. These women have shown that they will no longer be silenced. They will no longer be forced to suffer alone through their trauma of past abuse. They have shown through many ways that they will end this despicable era of harassment towards women at all costs, becoming excellent feminist role models to women everywhere.

Because of this, Battle of the Sexes couldn't have been more timely. Set in 1973 & based on the true story, the film follows Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone), the famous tennis player/feminist. Feeling disillusioned by the sexist policies of the Lawn Tennis Association set by tour promoter Jack Kramer (played by Bill Pullman), King, along with eight other tennis players, including Rosie Casals (played by Natalie Morales) & Jane Bartkowicz (played by Martha MacIsaac) & the founder of World Tennis magazine, Gladys Heldman (played by Sarah Silverman), form a women's professional tennis tour. King's friend, fashion designer Ted Tinling (played by Alan Cumming), also joins in to help with the organization. Although it is unsanctioned by Kramer, the struggling tour gets more attention when the cigarette company Virginia Slims becomes a sponsor of the tournament, along with the arrival of Australian tennis star Margaret Court (played by Jessica McNamee).

Meanwhile, the famous tennis star/hustler/unapologetical chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) is going through some personal troubles. His wife, Priscilla (played by Elisabeth Shue) is about to leave him due to his extreme gambling addiction, & at the age of 55, is way past his prime. Having just been thrown out of his house, Riggs comes up with a bet that he can beat any female tennis player, even at the age of 55, boasting that female tennis is not as strong as male tennis.

King declines the offer; however, Court takes him on, & is soundly defeated. At that moment, King decides to take him on, but wanting a major say in the arrangements. King trains a lot more than Riggs, who barely trains, believing that he will destroy King like he destroyed Court. But King has a lot of perseverance & strength to her, so the match will not be as easy as Riggs thinks it will.

Off the court, King is also going through personal issues as well. Although she is married to Larry King (played by Austin Stowell), King develops a relationship with her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (played by Andrea Riseborough). With this & her devotion to feminist causes, the match becomes more than that for her.

The cast is superb. Emma Stone gives one of the 3 best performances of her career. Steve Carell also gives one of the 3 best performances of his career, & is making a name for himself as a dramatic actor as well as a comedic actor, showing a pitch-perfect balance between comedy & drama in his performance here. Sarah Silverman also shows her noted feistiness in her short screentime, & it is excellent.

The direction by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris is great. Although their direction isn't as great as their direction for their masterpiece, 2006's Little Miss Sunshine (but then again, what will? That film is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time), it hits a lot more of the notes than it misses.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy is amazing. It walks on that fine line between comedy & drama excellently.

And Linus Sandgren's cinematography is stunning. Shot on 16mm film, Sandgren's camerawork is almost near perfect, & that image on the sadly-going-out-of-style 16mm film is clear & crisp. It's definitely some of the best cinematography this year.

This is a truly great dramedy. While some parts are a little unfocused, it's overall an excellent account of a truly groundbreaking moment in sports history. And it's also a great film for women, showcasing Billie Jean King for what she was: an amazing tennis player who was an amazing role model for women everywhere.

Battle of the Sexes was seen by me on Friday, September 29, 2017 at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington, MI; & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Walled Lake, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some sexual content & partial nudity.

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