I went into this movie expecting a lighthearted sports film that would also promote gender equality without being overly dour and serious. I mean, how could I not? Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs were lifelong friends so there wasn’t any real animosity between them. Here’s a clip from Rigg’s appearance on 60 minutes discussing everything leading up to the match:
See how they’re mainly joking around? Well the producers/director decided that wasn’t a good enough story so they made it much more serious by having Billie Jean King training intensely while also dealing with her burgeoning lesbianism. Oh what’s that? You didn’t realize it’s a sexuality equality movie too? Well yeah it kind of is. Even though in real life Billie Jean had figured all that out about 6 years before she and Riggs ever even thought about playing each other.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. Not by a long shot. Steve Carrell is fantastic as Bobby Riggs and really gets across that this was a hilarious guy with a gambling problem and was chasing his past fame by playing a character and not actually anti-women’s rights. Emma Stone does a great job with what she’s given – unfortunately the character comes across as a pretty shitty person. Sarah Silverman absolutely steals every scene she’s in – and this is coming from a guy who HATES Silverman’s normal shtick. And don’t get me started about Bill Pullman*. I could listen to that man read the dictionary for hours and be entertained.d
What it really comes down to is someone somewhere in the process decided this should serve as a Billie Jean King biopic and not as a sports movie about the Battle of the Sexes which was absolutely the wrong movie. By trying to service everything important in her life at that time they spread the movie too thin and it feels like nothing got it’s due. I could see there being a need for an actual Battle of the Sexes film or a Billie Jean King discovering her sexuality as a celebrity in the 60s could be a good movie or a Bobby Riggs chasing his past and having tons of gambling debt could be it’s own movie. Unfortunately, in the end we’re left with a movie trying to incorporate all of them in a disjointed mess.
Let me know what you think in the comments below or on twitter at @dgood826
*Half Glass has recently started a movie review podcast Six Pack Cinema (@SixPackCinema) and just dropped an episode about this. See which one of my idiot co-hosts gave me a heart attack by trying to claim Bill Pullman was dead and that this was his last role. Click the link below, smash subscribe, and rate five stars!