Film

Battle of the Sexes (Film Review) – Emma Stone’s Best Performance Yet

Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The film stars Austin Stowell, Elisabeth Shue, Bill PullmanAndrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Steve Carell and Emma Stone.

Battle of the Sexes is loosely based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The film also explores the personal situations of both King and Riggs who struggle to deal with their public and private lives both before and during the buildup to the tennis match.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes had its premiere at the Telluride Film Festival back in September 2017. Since then, the film has been receiving a lot of praise, especially when it comes to Emma Stone’s performance. I was first introduced to Emma Stone in The Amazing Spider-Man. I loved her in that film and she has continued to impress me with her acting ability ever since.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

Whether its Superbad, Birdman, The Help, Crazy Stupid Love or La La Land, Emma Stone is establishing herself through her performances as one of the best talents working in the film industry today. Some critics even described her performance in Battle of the Sexes as the best of her career. Consequently, I could not wait to see whether that was true for myself in the film.

I was also looking forward to seeing Steve Carell continue to delve into the dramatic side of acting. Certainly, everyone knows Steve Carell through his brilliant comedic work in films such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Still, Carell has really impressed me with his dramatic roles in films such as Foxcatcher and The Big Short. I wanted to see more of this side of Steve Carell’s acting prowess in Battle of the Sexes.

Based on the trailers, I expected a blend of comedy and drama with Steve Carell’s depiction of Bobby Riggs. Conversely, I believed that Emma Stone’s portrayal of Billie Jean King would be purely dramatic. My overall hope was that Battle of the Sexes would be a film that I considered to be worthy of nominations at the Oscars.

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King and Andrea Riseborough as Marilyn Barnett in Battle of the Sexes

My Thoughts on Battle of the Sexes

While that wish was not met, Battle of the Sexes is a decent film that is elevated by great performances. The best of these performances comes from Emma Stone who steals the film. She is absolutely brilliant as Billie Jean King and, like many film critics, I strongly believe that this is the best performance she has ever given in a film. She lost herself in the role and the struggles her character went through in the film were very affecting.

I also really liked Steve Carell and Sarah Silverman in the film. Silverman provided the understated comedic moments in Battle of the Sexes through her character’s personality. I always like that type of humour in films. The comedic moments that involved Steve Carell were more over the top but that was the nature of Bobby Riggs in the film. He was a larger than life personality and Carell did a good job at portraying this. Yet, he also had a great dramatic scene with his wife that showed the vulnerable side of Bobby Riggs. It was actually one of my favourite scenes in Battle of the Sexes.

Battle of the Sexes Is Not Best Picture Worthy

However, I would argue that the overall film does not match the quality of the performances in it. Battle of the Sexes is not a great film worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. For me, the film takes a while to find its footing. Indeed, I much preferred the second half of the film to the first. More of the great moments in the film, such as Bobby Riggs’ dramatic scene with his wife, happened in the second half.

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs in Battle of the Sexes

The lack of consistency meant that I was not captivated by the story of the film from beginning to end. Still, I will say that Battle of the Sexes is a very timely film. Some of the themes and messages of the film are very resonant for the current climate we are living in. As a result, this does make Battle of the Sexes necessary viewing. If you have the time, give this film a chance because you may like it more than I did.

Overall, Battle of the Sexes has great performances in it. However, the film itself does not match the quality of those performances. Emma Stone may get an Oscar nomination for Best Actress but that is as many Oscar nominations as I would give to Battle of the Sexes. You may feel different if you see the film though.

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