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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Battle Of The Sexes (Blu-ray)
Battle Of The Sexes (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG-13 // January 2, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted January 19, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I'm sure that there is some sort of comment to be made about the inspiration for making Battle of the Sexes, the dramatic retelling of the cultural touchstone that was the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. But it fell into a weird cultural place after the election loss of Hillary Clinton and just before the explosion of the "MeToo" movement through entertainment of politics, and smarter people than I can perhaps get into the reasons why.

Written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), King is portrayed by Emma Stone (La La Land). Coming off huge success on the women's tour, it was still a tour that was paying the competitors chump change compared to the men. So with the help of a publisher named Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman, Wreck-It Ralph), King and some other players formed an independent women's tour with sponsorship from Virginia Slims cigarettes. Adding onto the stress was the compulsive gambler Riggs (Steve Carell, Foxcatcher). A talented pro in his own right however it was a decade or two before that. Following Riggs' defeat of accomplished pro Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee, CHIPS), the matchup with King was inevitable.

While King had some professional pressure to deal with, she was undergoing a personal one to some degree. She'd been married to her husband and manager Larry (Austin Stowell, Colossal), she developed a friendship that blossomed into a romance with her hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough, Disconnect). This relationship and communication change between the three is sudden yet as important development within King's life.

And for all of the things that King had to juggle in her life, Stone expresses all of them well. On a gradual upturn of challenging dramatic roles, Stone's turn here, different than what she won an Oscar for, is just as good and perhaps even better, because she's carry more of an emotional weight than a physical one. She does handle a lot of shots on the court well, but this is both a small departure and large leap in ability from La La Land and she more than delivers. Countering her is Carell, whose work to portray Riggs as flowed but loyal to his wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue, Chasing Mavericks) is poignant. There still appears to be some mystery in Riggs that doesn't get fleshed out, but Carell provides enough to keep Riggs in the picture.

As one with a loose knowledge of the events surrounding the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs match, there isn't that much past the events that I gleaned from it. Rather, it's a more emotional telling of the events in both of those characters' lives both on and off the court, and Dayton and Faris provide enough visual authenticity to go with the genuine emotion shown by the stars that it makes for a new experience to some and a historical one for others. Battle of the Sexes might not be as profound as some of the current day events, but it's heart and execution are all in the right place.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

It was nice to step back from the usual modern productions and digital shooting to see a recent movie on film for the first time in a long time, and Fox gives Battle of the Sexes enough room in a 2.40:1 format to stretch its legs out with moments of vivid color when portable green tennis courts are installed and yellow balls are bounced on it. The darker shades of the palette tend to venture into moments of softness such as in the locker room after the match or when the King and Riggs camps meet in a darker hallway the day before the match. Generally it's a good presentation, but doesn't blow the doors off given the modest goals.

The Sound:

DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 lossless that does the trick in between a fair amount of music (damn, I hated to like listening to ‘Crimson and Clover' one more time) and the moments of tennis. The court action rings out through the channels cleanly and effectively and crowd roars bring in a convincing layer of immersion to them. Dialogue is just as convincing and balanced through the film and the feature turns out to be an underrated treat in this aspect.

Extras:

"Reigniting the Rivalry" (18:23) features insight from the cast, crew and from King herself on the events and the meaning, and King talks about where her head was at that time. The usual thoughts from the cast on the characters they're portraying and the actors they work with is next, and the impact of the Virginia Slims tour and its impact is covered. And of course, looks at the retro hair and wardrobe is shown. It's a fairly standard EPK at the end of the day. "In Her Own Words" (10:30) is a sit-down with King as she shares more of her perspective on the event, along with larger things like the quality of the game, society's acceptance and the like. "Billie Jean's Grand Entrance" (2:17) is raw video (with no sound) of Stone's entrance to the match, some of which she shot. Two stills galleries complete things.

Final Thoughts:

Battle of the Sexes is a docudrama that shows the viewer the blizzard of events surrounding Billie Jean King's life and Stone carries the stress and ultimate relief to perfection in a performance beyond her years. Carell's performance is earnest but the character her portrays feels incomplete, but nevertheless it's an emotionally told story that's worth experiencing in times like these. Technically the disc is good but could have used another bonus nugget or two. Definitely worth seeing if you have some time.

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