Gosh, I really did want to like Battle of the Sexes. I really did. But it turned out to be such a let-down. I had to spend some time to properly think why I felt this strong feeling of disappointment after watching a film that was meant to be a “feel-good film” experience. LIES!
I went back and analysed similar films I’ve seen before that I really liked: Hidden Figures, Rush, and Eddie the Eagle. And I think I figured out why I was disappointed. Here are some reasons I’ve come up with:
- This film is too lukewarm. It wasn’t intense enough, it didn’t have any nail-biting climactic scenes, and its portrayal of the emotional struggles experienced by both Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs were not pushed to their fullest potential. Which is such a shame because I know Steve Carell and Emma Stone have the abilities to give more compelling performances. Sure, there are films that have no need for a “climax”, like Ida, but that’s because those are art films focusing instead on exploring its characters in depth. Those films are already so rich in character, they don’t NEED a mainstream climactic scene with epic music. But Battle of the Sexes is a mainstream film with no captivating characters. It needs all the help it can get to have an exciting screenplay but apparently that didn’t happen.
- Also, the writers should have picked on one thing to focus on. There’s too many issues being addressed all at once and it absolutely messed up the tone of the film. Is it about gender inequality? Is it about freedom to love? Is it about men being misunderstood? Scenes with Marilyn felt like Carol, scenes with King and the tennis girls felt like Hidden Figures, and scenes with Riggs in it felt like Click. The tone of the film was so inconsistent, it diluted everything it was trying to address. That being said, I acknowledge their good intentions behind making this film, and I agree that it is a film addressing problems that are still very relevant today. But I go to the cinemas to watch good movies, and this was a let-down. Like Margaret Court’s match with Bobby Riggs: her effort was noble, but it was sad to watch her get thrashed on court.
- Lastly, the choice of music. The original soundtrack of the film was really grand and epic, they used full orchestra scores and it was all very Joe Hisaishi-esque in its style. Sadly, it didn’t match with what I saw on screen. Every time nothing much was really happening on screen… CUE EPIC MUSIC. Felt like the creators watched the clips they’ve shot and realised they’re gonna need more epic music to salvage the film. You can’t use epic music to make a lame scene feel grand. I don’t think it works that way.
In summary, I guess I just don’t recommend this film. It’s not a BAD movie though, I’d still give it a 2.5/5.
I guess I’m just so disappointed because this is a movie that should matter. It addresses issues that are very serious and important, and hence I expected a much, much better job than this. It just didn’t do justice to the people this movie tried to portray, and the hardships they went through during that time. Maybe they shouldn’t have made a film that’s overly ambitious — covering so many social issues all at once — because in the end, we’d get a diluted effort that fails to meet the minimum depth these individual issues needed in order to be effective.