Emma Stone is a terrific actress but there’s something off about her performance as Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes.” Stone (“The Help,” “La La Land”) never blends into the role of the tennis superstar turned women’s rights activist. The look is off and, more importantly, the attitude never feels like classic King. I don’t think this is Stone’s fault — not completely — but because of this “Battle of the Sexes,” co-directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, ends up feeling like cosplay.
“Battle of the Sexes” tells the true story of the famous 1973 tennis match between the world’s top female player, King, and Bobby Riggs, a former men’s tennis star and serial hustler who was hell-bent on making a joke of women’s sports. It was a great story then and is extremely pertinent today, too, which is why I’m disappointed with the finished product.
Stone isn’t the only one in this movie that feels out of place. Everyone outside of the Riggs family seemed like a miscast. Steve Carell (“The Office,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), however, was absolutely perfect as Bobby. There’s no doubt that he has the comedic chops but Carell is extremely underrated in dramatic roles. He has a knack of somehow blending into roles that at first don’t seem to fit him but later feel like he was born to play.
All the wacky and chauvinistic acts that the real-life Bobby was pulling during the lead-up to the match was just a mask he used to hide the fact that he was a broken man, addicted to gambling and grasping for attention. Dayton and Faris did a commendable job in humanizing Bobby and his character always felt grounded.
Every time he was off camera, I found my mind wandering away from the action on the screen and wondering what Bobby was doing. King is such a giant figure with a massive personality. Her role in women’s sports during that time period and today is tough to put into words. I would love to say that Stone, Dayton and Faris did King justice but they did not. Maybe my familiarity with the match ruined this for me. Either way, I left the theater wanting more. Much more.
BOX OFFICE REVIEW
1. “Blade Runner 2049”: $32,753,122 (Week 1); Warner Bros.
2. “The Mountain Between Us”: $32,753,122 (Week 1); Fox.
3. “It”: $9,972,002 (Week 5); Warner Bros. Total gross: $305,250,480.
4. “My Little Pony: The Movie”: $8,885,899 (Week 1); Lionsgate Films.
5. “Kingsman: The Golden Circle”: $8,675,412 (Week 3); Fox. Total gross: $80,539,837.
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