Movie review: Battle of the Sexes

Movie reviews

Good evening,

My BFI London Film Festival series of reviews (it opened with Breathe) continues with Battle of the Sexes – another potential awards contender for the year!

IMDb summary: The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs.

As a side note, before the actual review begins, I just wanted to tell you about a different tennis movie that already came out this year and left me pleasantly surprised. It’s Borg vs. McEnroe and I suggest you check it out! Onto Battle of the Sexes!

Writing

Battle of the Sexes was written by Simon Beaufoy (who is known for writing such movies as Slumdog Millionaire127 HoursSalmon Fishing in the YemenThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Everest) and the film’s script was inspired/based on real events.

Battle of the Sexes tackled/portrayed two big concepts – the LGBTQ+ identity and the feminism/women’s rights. Sadly, both of these thematical spheres are still highly controversial and not discussed enough (or if they are debated, then only really unproductively, with zero chances of reaching a consensus between the opposing sides). Some might say that both of these issues are more topical in today’s socio-political climate than they were in the 1970s.

The movie approached these topics head-on (feminism way more than the LGBTQ+ side) and had a strong overall message. Personally, I loved it, but then again, I am a woman, a feminist, and a liberal. The general audiences, full of individuals of different genders/ideologies/beliefs, might turn on this movie because of its strong message of social justice. There was one short scene in the movie, where Emma Stone’s character confronted a journalist and clearly declared that she was not fighting to be seen as better, she just wanted to be treated equally. I wanted that idea – one of equality – to be more overtly stated in the movie because I worry that a takeaway for some audience members might be the fact that women want to be on top, rather than by side with the other genders. It is a bummer that, for some, being pro-female ultimately translates into an anti-male stance and I would hate if the cinema-goers interpreted Battle of the Sexes in such a way.

Now, let’s discuss some aspects of the writing in more detail. I thought that the presentation of Steve Carell’s character was captivating: his personal background and problems very clearly affected his actions of the tennis court. The way his gambling addiction and his work – tennis – were combined was super interesting too. It was also fascinating to see how he embellished his toxic masculinity for the public eye. The whole commentary on tennis as an activity in the middle of the spectacle v sports dichotomy was brilliant. In addition, the conflicting position of Carell’s character’s wife, played by Elisabeth Shue, was just amazing to watch: she rooted for her husband because he was her love but she also seemed to be cheering for Billie Jean and her cause.

Lastly, Battle of the Sexes also toyed with the concept of the gentlemanliness/sexism line (where one ends and the other begins). It also showcased sport as the factor that triumphed any relationship in the character’s life. The picture also did a very good job of combining feminity with feminism (which are often presented as polar opposites, which they aren’t). Oh, and the jokes were good too!

Directing

Battle of the Sexes was directed by a duo of filmmakers – Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris – who are responsible for directing one of my all-time favorite pictures Little Miss Sunshine. They did a great job with this film and its nuances and layers. Battle of the Sexes was a great biographical drama, a good sports drama, and an amazing romantic drama. The extreme close-ups of the characters made the movie seem intimate, real, and raw. The 1970s setting was well-realized, from the retro logos to the colorful vintage tracksuits. The sequences of the actual tennis play were good too, the final one was especially intense. The body doubles were hardly noticeable, so props to the directors, the cinematographer, and the camera crew for cleverly shooting around them.

Acting

Emma Stone (Magic in the MoonlightIrrational Man) and Steve Carell (The Big Short, Cafe Society) played the two lead roles. Both of these actors had quite similar careers – they started in comedy and then tried to transition to more serious roles, with varying levels of success. For Stone, this performance is her follow-up to the Oscar win for La La Land and a strong contender for at least a nomination this year. For Carrel, the involvement in Battle of the Sexes might bring him another nomination too. Emma was extremely lovable in the role and exuded both strength and relatable vulnerability. Steve was really good too – he looked exactly like the real person and also made the guy into a somewhat likable human being, even if he was sprouting nonsense most of the time.

The supporting cast was also really good. I loved Sarah Silverman as the bossy manager, she was perfectly cast. Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals) was brilliant as Billie Jean’s lover, while Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies) brought a lot of heart to his role of Billie’s husband. Finally, I loved to hate Bill Pullman (ID: Resurgence) in his role and adored Elisabeth Shue in hers!

In short, Battle of the Sexes was a great drama about equality, freedom, and fighting. Undoubtfully, it was well executed, but whether you will agree with its message, will entirely depend on who you are as a person.

Rate: 4.3/5

Trailer: Battle of the Sexes trailer

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Movie review: Cinderella 2015 + Frozen Fever

Movie reviews

Hello!

I have just come back from the early screening of Cinderella in honor of International Women’s Day and this is going to be my review! Happy Women’s day to all the women and girls out there too!!

First of all, let’s start with the Frozen short – Frozen Fever – which they showed before the movie. I was really scared that they wouldn’t show it internationally but they did and I am really happy about it!

I loved the short movie even more than the actual Frozen movie! My favorite story line of Frozen was the sister relationship which is also the main focus of the short film. The quirkiness of Anna and Kristoff is also relatable to me and it’s explored in the short too. And did you see how cute Elsa’s little snowmen look? Now Olaf can have brothers and sisters! Elsa’s and Anna’s dresses were also amazing and really spring-like…I also loved that they re-used the line “The cold never bothered me anyway” to introduce the song “Perfect Day“. One last note: I liked the fact that they showed what Hans was doing after what he did in Frozen…That was a nice cameo.

Trailer: Frozen Fever trailer

Rate: 4/5frozen-fever-poster

Now, let’s talk about Cinderella. First of all, I liked that this was a direct remake of the original one with little changes and not a nitty-gritty evil version of it…Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Maleficent and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, however, I do believe that some things don’t have to change because the original story is that good. Some might say that I have a conservative way of thinking and don’t like changes in general but that would be completely untrue. Some might also claim that I am anti-feminist because I like that women are depicted as beautiful dolls with no brain..Again, both of these statements are completely untrue. I have a very liberal view and I also would call myself a modern feminist because both of these ideologies encourage me to choose freely. And, though, I like strong female characters like Katniss from THG , this time, I choose to watch a “sappy” romance because I have a choice. I also will try to argue that Cinderella is a strong female character in her own way.

Acting

I have seen probably all the possible adaptations of the Cinderella, including all the teen remakes (Another Cinderella Story with Selena Gomez was like my favorite childhood movie and introduced me to Selena Gomez whose fan I still am). However, I will admit that I haven’t seen an original Cinderella animation in a long time..It has probably been at least 3-4 years since I’ve last watched it. Though, I’ve recently seen Into The Woods and really liked Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Chris Pine as Prince Charming…Having said that, I believe that this movie has even better Cinderella and a Prince.

Lilly James as Cinderella was really amazing. She definitely looked the part but she also sold me on both the emotional connection with her parents and the chemistry with The Prince. Their first dance was sensual and sexual at the same time. I also liked her connection with nature and animals. Because I am a fan of Downtown Abbey, it  was also fun for me to see her do all the work while her maid form Downtown (actress Sophie McShera) played one of the evil step-sisters. They kinda exchanged roles for a few hours. Another step sister was played by actress Holiday Grainger. Both actresses did a nice job. They characters were a bit cartoon-ish but then again – this is an adaptation of cartoon.

Richard Madden as Prince Charming. God, I forgot how handsome he was…He was a great Heir to Winterfell in GoT and, in this movie, he was definitely the most charming Prince you could ever find. I believed his and Cinderella’s love at first sight. Strange, how this type of love works in fairy-tales for me but doesn’t work anywhere else (I have Jupiter Ascending in mind (review)).

Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine/Evil step-mother – talk about a scene stealer. Cate captivated your attention every-time she was on screen. She was such a great evil step mom. I hated her a lot. If I was in Cinderella’s place, I would have punched her in the face after the first week but I guess I am not that kind.

P.S. her cat – Lucifer – was cool Easter Egg too.

Cinderella’s parents: Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin were also great. I am a fan of Hayley (just finished Agent Carter) and I believe that they portrayed a family relationship nicely. My eyes were watering when Hayley’s character was dying..I was also sad that I wasn’t able to see the actress, I like, on screen for a longer period of time.

Derek Jacobi as The King and Stellan Skarsgard as Grand Duke (I guess the director Kennith Branagh of the film had to pick at least one of the actors from Thor – he directed that movie too). I liked that they explored the father-son relationship between The King and The Prince more and added more depth to these characters. The twist on the Grand Duke’s character was also an interesting touch.

Nonso Anozie as the Captain was also a nice addition to the film. His and Prince Charming’s scenes showed The Prince more as a commoner and not a royalty.

Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother was also a functional role, though I would have liked to see a fairy godmother more as a sensitive, encouraging character and less like a comic relief character.

Visuals/Costume/Setting

The movie looked breathtakingly beautiful. The costumes were exquisite, the sets looked real and authentic and the overall visual realization of the film was just spectacular. Props to Sandy Powell for costume design, Haris Zambarloukos for cinematography and Martin Walsh for the beautiful editing of the film.

Story

Probably all of you reading this know, how Cinderella’s story plays out. And I really love it for what it is. I am a romantic and I believe in true love and I would like to find true love in my life too, be it at first sight or the second. I also believe that Cinderella encourages young girls to play nice, to fight evil with kindness and goodness, to support each other and stop the bullying. It also shows that if you play nice and stick to your way of thinking, you can achieve what you want. You can win without changing who you are, because you are beautiful as you are. Some might say that Cinderella has the advantage of her beautiful looks and I can agree with them. However, beauty is such a subjective concept, so she might look pretty to some people while others might have a different opinion. In addition, though, our world is changing ever so slightly, you will never convince me that the outside beauty doesn’t matter. It has mattered for centuries and it still matters, because all first impressions, which a crucial while living in a contemporary society, are based on looks.

So, to sum up, I loved this movie, it dragged at some place but it was still a feast for my eyes and for my heart. “Enjoy it while it lasts” – I certainly did and escaped my life in order to spend a few hours in a fairy-tale.

Trailer: Cinderella (2015) trailer

Rate: 4.5/5

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