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FLICKS: Battle of the Sexes nice, but disappointing

Posted on 05 October 2017 by LeslieM

By “Cinema” Dave


While IT retained the box office crown, for the most part it was a disappointing weekend. Despite the multimillion dollar marketing campaign and much hype from the recent U.S. Open Tennis Championship, Battle of the Sexes was a major financial disappointment.

Battle of the Sexes reviews the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) that filled the Houston Astrodome on a Thursday night on Sept. 20, 1973.  The match was a special edition of ABC’s Wide World of Sports and was a ratings winner.

With consultation from Billie Jean King and her longtime companion Ilana Kos, we are presented with the behind-the-scenes drama. While Riggs and King trash-talked each other in the public eye, off camera it appears the couple had a professional relationship with one another. 

It is the relationships away from tennis that fill up most of the running time. While Riggs’ gambling addiction is the core of his domestic woes, it is Billie Jean King’s emotional growth as a lesbian that is given most of the spotlight. It is ironic that so much time is devoted to King’s relationship to her former hairdresser Marilyn Barnett, because eight years later Barnett sued King for palimony. 

As the reigning Best Actress Winner, Emma Stone does a fine job. She mixes Billie Jean King’s public professionalism with silent moments of reflection that is soul searching. As the rude, crude and socially unacceptable (by today’s standards) Bobby Riggs, Steve Carell gives a sympathetic performance. It would have been easy to make Riggs a villain, but Carell’s vulnerability makes one root for him.

Battle of the Sexes is an entertaining slice of history for those who lived in 1973. One is reminded about the fashion trends when hearing the pop music associated with the time. Yet, there is a mechanical feeling to the screenplay for this movie. There is no need to rush out and see it, for it will be played on television during Women’s History Month.

Battle of the Sexes is likely to be forgotten this weekend as the much anticipated Blade Runner 2049 opens, a sequel 35 years in the making. 

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