September 20, 2017

BATTLE OF THE SEXES MOVIE: BILLIE JEAN KING SINGS, ‘I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME BORE.’ “The directors of the new movie don’t seem to realize that Bobby Riggs is the one viewers want to hang out with:”

It’s impossible not to think of John McEnroe’s comment that Serena Williams would be ranked no. 700 if she played in the men’s circuit. Riggs, though a Wimbledon champion in his youth, is now 55 and out of shape. Instead of training, he parties. He isn’t close to being one of the top 700 male tennis players in the world. When he goes on to play King, he manages to win ten games over three sets and proves a perfectly creditable opponent. The movie’s implied contention that women’s tennis offers the same quality of play as men’s simply doesn’t withstand acquaintance with the facts.

Moreover, that point is made in the dullest way imaginable. Simon Beaufoy is one of the most accomplished screenwriters working today, with The Full Monty and Slumdog Millionaire to his vast credit, but he falls into the earnest-message-movie trap and keeps having his characters state, restate and re-restate the themes of the film in one on-the-nose scene after another. The directors, the wife-and-husband team of Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who made Little Miss Sunshine in 2006 but haven’t had a hit since, don’t seem to realize that the irrepressible Riggs — he’s such a born entertainer that he wears scuba flippers for one match and plays another with a dog on a leash — is the one we want to hang out with. King is simply a grind, a classic student-council nerd who stays home and does her homework while Riggs, the class clown, is out there making the world giggle with outrageous stunts and insult comedy.

According to Wikipedia, “Principal photography on the film began in Los Angeles on April 13, 2016.” Of course it was intended as a parable for the presidential election – except as usually happens, the person who appears to be having more fun on the campaign trail ends up the winner. Did Hillary look like she was having any fun at all plonking along the campaign trail?

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