“Battle of the Sexes” is a crowd pleasing re-do of the 2016 election

Sometimes, a movie just hits at the right time. Battle of the Sexes, initially just a baity biopic of Billie Jean King and the moment where he path crossed with Bobby Riggs, is now about so much more. Obviously, it’s a comedic sports tale as well, but it’s also in many ways a re litigation of the 2016 Presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Apolitical audiences will enjoy things besides that, but if that’s still on your mind, you’ll be incredibly moved by this one. This week, Battle of the Sexes hits theaters and serves up (no pun intended) a real good time at the movies.

The film is a look at a pivotal moment in the fight for equality between the genders. In 1973, ex-champ and hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was looking to get back in the spotlight, so he challenged women’s World number one tennis player Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) to a match. Riggs adopted a chauvinistic persona, rallying men to his cause. King initially resists him, while also beginning to explore her sexuality with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). When King initially rebuffs Riggs, he plays another female player in Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and beats her, backing King into a corner. Soon after, the “Battle of the Sexes” is on. History tells you who wins, but there’s genuine emotion in seeing it happen. Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton direct a script from Simon Beaufoy, with supporting performers including Alan Cumming, Martha MacIsaac, Natalie Morales, Eric Christian Olsen, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue, Sarah Silverman, Austin Stowell, Mickey Sumner, and more. Nicholas Britell composed the score, while Linus Sandgren handles the cinematography.

This movie is supremely entertaining. Even if you don’t care about politics, it works as a behind the scenes type sports flick. If you’re political though, this has a wonderful extra layer to it. Riggs is proto Trump, and Carell certainly plays him as such, at least under the surface. King works well as a Clinton stand in too, with Stone’s expert performance suggesting but never calling overt attention to that. This is a really well made flick, one that will give many audience members the feeling of finally getting to see the result they wish they had gotten back in November of last year. Remove that all and you still have something top notch. It’s just that added layer which might help it really appeal to Academy members.

Awards wise, Battle of the Sexes should be an across the board player. Look for Fox Searchlight to launch campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Faris and Dayton), Best Actor (for Carell), Best Actress (for Stone), Best Supporting Actor (for Carell, if he doesn’t go Lead), Best Supporting Actress (for Riseborough), Best Original Screenplay (for Beaufoy), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, and Best Original Score. Below the line will all depend on how it’s likely to do in Picture, but the best bet seems to be Stone in Actress. If Carell goes Supporting, he’d have a strong shot too. Picture could even bring in the duo in Director as well. We’ll just have to stay tuned to see how the precursors treat this one. For now though, bet against this one at your own risk.

This weekend, audiences of all sorts will be able to see Battle of the Sexes, as it starts its potential march to Oscar glory. Stone seems likely to return to Academy contention, while the film itself might end up being a true threat in Best Picture. Whether it can actually contend to win remains to be seen, but the movie is really good, independent of all that. It’s one of the ten best things I’ve seen so far this year, so take it as pretty high praise. Give it a look and follow along as it holds court in the awards season as 2017 progresses…

Be sure to check out Battle of the Sexes, beginning its theatrical run on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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