(IMAGE: FOX SEARCHLIGHT)

As Awards sea­son heats up, the CINEGODS team will be catch­ing up on buzz­wor­thy titles we missed as well as tak­ing a look at the new and the note­wor­thy. Here are some thoughts by TOMATOMETER crit­ics Ray Greene, Mark Keizer and Wade Major on BATTLE OF THE SEXES, the sports dram­e­dy by direct­ing duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton about the epochal 1973 ten­nis face-​off between women’s cham­pi­on Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and self-​styled male chau­vin­ist pig” Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

Our exchange begins (as they so often do) with an off-​hand com­ment, this time from Ray Greene to the oth­er Gods..

RAY GREENE WRITES: Worst score of the year goes to the very well-​intentioned dra­ma BATTLE OF THE SEXES, which has an echoey unin­ten­tion­al­ly Goth organ dri­ven con­cer­to thingy by Nicholas Britell slapped on it that makes every­thing frothy in the sto­ry (and there is froth here) sink to the bot­tom of the frame­line. Yeesh what a bad bad choice.
MARK KEIZER WRITES: Too bad because his score for MOONLIGHT helped that film enormously.
WADE MAJOR WRITES: Watched BATTLE OF THE SEXES last night. Score didn’t both­er me. Thought it was a sen­sa­tion­al script and real­ly well direct­ed. Probably a top 10 film for me. Really enjoyed it. And not just because I see Jonathan Dayton in the dairy sec­tion every few months… wear­ing the same damn hat he’s been wear­ing for 20 years. 
RAY GREENE: I thought it meant well and was way too struc­tured and pol­ished” in a Sid Field sort of way. It’s the FOX SEARCHLIGHT pseudo-​indie dis­ease: a slight­ly risky” sub­ject (in this case les­bian­ism) gets sub­ject­ed to the same devel­op­men­tal bur­nish­ing an X-​MEN film would receive and ends up feel­ing just as man­u­fac­tured dra­mat­i­cal­ly. April Wolfe’s piece in the WEEKLY is excel­lent on this one.
WADE MAJOR: Straight up true — but that may also be why I like it. Feels and looks like it could have been made in 1982. I don’t think it’s real­ly about les­bian­ism, per se — if any­thing it push­es that a bit too much on the nose at the end with that total­ly unnec­es­sary final line by Alan Cumming. I appre­ci­at­ed that it wasn’t as much about HER as about both of them, both fun­da­men­tal­ly decent and well-​intentioned peo­ple with dif­fer­ent strug­gles and cop­ing with them in a dif­fer­ent way. And I love those two actors. Emma Stone can just stare at a cam­era for two hours for all I care. 
RAY GREENE: It’s not about les­bian­ism. It’s about feel-​goodism. Bobby Riggs is the nicest vil­lain in movie his­to­ry. Even when mar­riages break up, nobody shouts or cries. They just quiver with decen­cy and nod know­ing­ly. And it kids itself that by pre­sent­ing les­bian­ism with the same dimin­ished nar­ra­tive palette it’s strik­ing a blow for the good. Making it palat­able for the cheeseaters, who won’t know what hit them as their pre­sumed homo­pho­bia dis­solves into a mushy slur­ry of nar­ra­tive pos­i­tiv­i­ty. It has the same gen­er­al tone as a Disney/​Fred MacMurray movie like FOLLOW THE BOYS. And ulti­mate­ly approx­i­mate­ly the same narrative/​political impact.
But Emma Stone is ter­rif­ic in it. A very poised and dis­creet actress – real­ly, if she can find suit­able movies for her sub­tle­ty she will last forever.
WADE MAJOR: I’m total­ly okay with all that. The rea­son being that the last batch of movies to go there” real­ly turned me off. Like that Steve Carell thing about the crazy mur­der­ous DuPont wrestling guy — the world being where it is, I need feel-​goodism. So if it has a Frank Capra /​Jimmy Stewart vibe — I’m total­ly good with that. It has Fox Searchlight all over it — right down to the faux” clas­sic 20th Century Fox fan­fare and logo vari­a­tion. Totally get why oth­ers feel it’s a cheat — but it touched me. I’m all about old fash­ioned” these days. Elisabeth Shue, too [as Bobby Riggs long-​suffering wife]… ter­rif­ic. I’d say it’s the best thing she’s done in a while, but it’s the FIRST thing she’s done in a while.
RAY GREENE: It feels like Capra as stud­ied by a third year film stu­dent at UCLA. I kept yearn­ing for a ROCKY movie that actu­al­ly wants to be a ROCKY movie. But okay. I get it. I am the self-​described cur­mud­geon after all.
Bah! Humbug!
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