(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.
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.