‘Battle of the Sexes’ serves up less battle and more surrender

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, October 4th, 2017 at 6:21 PM
‘Battle of the Sexes’ serves up less battle and more surrender by Gabriel Hypes

“Battle of the Sexes” is a movie I’ve had on my calendar ever since the trailer first dropped in May of this year. Emma Stone and Steve Carell starring in a movie directed by the duo that brought us the amazing “Little Miss Sunshine”? And it revolves around sports? This just had the makings of an end-of-the-year favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to any of that hype.

Growing up, I was a huge “Rocky” fan. I had two special edition box sets of movie franchises in my collection. One was “Star Wars” and the other was “Rocky.” You may be asking: “What does a 40-year-old series have to do with this movie?”

The answer? Everything.

“Battle of the Sexes” tried to be so much more than a film about tennis. There was a story about misogynistic men, equal rights for women,
the stigma against homosexuals and the main character, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone), dealing with her own personal battles between life and tennis. All of these things thrown together made for a “battle of issues.”

Back to “Rocky.” Let me refresh you on how perfect it truly was and not just the original, but the series as a whole. Rocky Balboa was so much more than a boxer. He was an underdog in the ring and an even bigger underdog in life. The audience developed this connection with the character. Bring in Adrian, his new girlfriend and future wife, and it gives him a piece he was previously missing.

In every movie, everybody loved Rocky and there was always a clear antagonist. It was simple. Good, blue-collar guy works hard to beat the cheating, America-hating bad guy. Rocky follows a movie formula that has stood the test of time.

Now “Battle of the Sexes” seemed to attempt the same formula, but missed the crucial aspects of it. There was no clear antagonist of the film.

Was it Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell)? I don’t think so. Being that he doesn’t even become relevant to the story until halfway through the film,
it’d be tough for him to be the villain. Is it the misogynistic play-by-play commentator who we met at the start of the film? Probably not. He was a major part of the film for the first 20 minutes, but does not show up again until the end.

The answer is probably men as a whole, right? I’m still not sure about that. King is battling her own sexuality throughout the film, and she receives sly remarks about it from her peers. The story now seems to be about gay rights and how things were for King at the height of her power.

The only logical antagonist that I can fathom is society as a whole in the ‘70s. But that just hurts the film. Having a world-class athlete compete
in a “circus” of a match, while also focusing

on her battle between tennis and her husband, girlfriend, misogynistic men and a homophobic society led to a jumbled mess.

“Battle of the Sexes” worked best as a film that showed that women are just as important as men, an issue we as a society are still fighting today. King and her fellow tennis players did something huge for women’s rights. Focusing on that and the “show” of King versus Riggs would have made for a much better film.

There were numerous other issues plaguing the film, but even if there weren’t, it still would not have been enough to look past what I stated in this review. A movie based on a true story should have some dramatization, otherwise I would just rather watch a documentary on the subject.

“Battle of the Sexes” had a runtime of just over two hours, but it felt much longer than that (not in a good way). It’s disappointing to see a movie with this much potential not reach any of it.

Gabriel Hypes is the arts editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com. 

Tags: film review

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