The day of the screening was “just one of those days” – I had a packed schedule all morning, no time for lunch, and rushed across town to make it to the movie.
FOOD/DRINK BEFORE SCREENING: Pressed juice
MOOD: Hungry and a little stressed
EXPECTATION OF MOVIE: High
The pressed juice I drank on the way didn’t satisfy me. The stress I felt trying to get there in time didn’t make me happy.
But I had high expectations anyway, because I grew up watching Billie Jean King. As a little girl who played sports, she symbolized strength and fearlessness. I used to wear a shirt that said, “Girls Can Do Anything Boys Can Do Better.”
Long story short, I was very excited to watch her story.
So I was disappointed I didn’t enjoy it more.
The movie is based on the real-life Battle of the Sexes exhibition match, where King defeated former men’s tennis champion Bobby Riggs. Some 90-million people tuned in and watched the circus-like event. And when she won, it was a huge moment for women in sports.
To be clear, some things in the movie really worked – namely, the performances.
Emma Stone may not look like Billie Jean King, but she captures her general aura – from the way she holds her shoulders and walks, to her tennis swing and how she tilts her head. It’s a nuanced performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she nabs another nomination for the performance.
Steve Carell is also terrific because he manages to balance humor with some pretty dark stuff. His version of Bobby Riggs is layered – he’s a hustler and promoter, a gambling addict who refuses help and a regretful husband, a man who’d do anything for an audience including exhibiting blatant chauvinism.
In some ways, I felt more empathy toward him than King – which I can’t imagine is what the filmmakers would want, but who knows?
And that’s my problem with the movie. I was never sure about the tone.
Sometimes it’s quirky, sometimes it’s straight. Sometimes it’s elegant, sometimes it’s silly.
There are also a lot of competing themes: the big match, Riggs’ marital troubles, King’s first relationship with a woman, Riggs’ training and vitamin endorsement, King’s Virginia Slims Tour.
All of those things can work. But in this film, they don’t – and many times, it felt clunky and uncertain.
Maybe it was my hunger and stress that affected my perception? But if I’m being honest, Battle of the Sexes could have been great – but it’s only good.
WHAT IS “HONEST REVIEW”?
I’m a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. I interview actors and filmmakers. I’ve worked in broadcast television for 20 years.
I’m also a Seattle wife and mom who works full-time and sits in an hour of traffic (minimum) every day.
Sometimes I’m tired when I screen a movie. Sometimes I’m traveling and I miss my kids. Sometimes I’ve had a glass wine when I should have had a glass of water.
All of these things can impact my reaction to a film. Because I’m human.
So in an effort to write an Honest Review, I’ll always list the external factors that might affect my enjoyment of the movie. Then, I’ll give you my review. Then, you can decide if it’s useful or not.
What do you think of Honest Review or Battle of the Sexes? Let me know at @kimholcomb.