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Red Sparrow

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Red Sparrow

Spielberg. Streep. Hanks.

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Battle of the Sexes ♕ ♚ ♛ 1/2

If Battle of the Sexes about Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) doesn’t reflect our current climate I don’t know what does?

Imagine if Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton picked up tennis rackets. Imagine if they squared off in a match…the clown-like-big-mouthed Chauvinist prancing about, up against an experienced, female Politician in a massive public challenge.

The film focuses on the year 1973, when fifty-something “chauvinist pig” and Wimbledon triple- winner, Bobby Riggs (Carell) challenged age twenty-nine, top women’s pro, Billie Jean King (Stone) to a tennis match, that captivated the world. Of course, we all know the ending, but the film delivers the story with an I-am-woman-hear-me-roar 70s throwback.

Paralleling the match, King and Riggs, were each dealing with personal issues. For King, it was exploring her identity; being ousted as a lesbian.  Gender equality was a challenge then, mirroring today’s LGBT movements.  Hard to imagine these issues still goes on forty-plus years later. For Bobby Riggs, he fought gambling addiction and a wealthy wife, Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue.) Wedded bliss left him stuck at a desk job.

In real life King respected and admired Riggs. He was her hero. The very hero who turned out to be such a disappointment, thus making her all the more determined to beat a man who thought that a man couldn’t be beat.  As a result, King becomes the real ‘Wonder Woman’ of cinema that inspires all women – today, yesterday, tomorrow – to do their best, and follow their truth.

As the movie opens, at times it’s annoying cookie-cutter cliché with a fast clip pace, but when King meets hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) and romantic sparks fly, the film relaxes to a Xanax slow-mo. The romance feels genuine, as the two find each other in a way that says nobody else in the room exists.  Their shared glances become stares that are life altering and life affirming.  The sex scenes and confusion, too, moves us as an audience.

This coming-out tale, not a fairy tale is a story that bounces buoyantly and beautifully off of politics, celebrity, publicity, and of course, feminism.

The retro soundtrack, which includes classics like “Crimson and Clover” and “Rocket Man” but not Elton John’s 1977 song “Philadelphia Freedom,” which he dedicated to King – cements us in the era.  It’s directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the team who brought us Little Miss Sunshine working from a brilliant script by Simon Beaufoy; the genius writer behind Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, The Hunger Games

There are so many marvelous facets to explore in this time-capsule-feel-of-a-film that will attract tennis-lovers, and serve up success.  The filmmakers have also managed to cover the court possibly drawing in the viewers too young to remember Billie Jean, but for sure those wanting to remember the 70s and having lived them like my childhood self.

This is a movie has never been so relevant, but sometimes a little too much so, as the filmmakers often overkill the meaning of women’s rights down our throats. But, that’s okay, because the story forces the audience to  analyze their own emotional tennis match on what has changed – equal pay, equality, gender issues – from the 70s to today, and what has stayed the same.  #Sad.

Emma Stone is perfectly cast and will most likely follow-up with a second Oscar nomination after last year’s win for La La Land. One might never imagine her in say a historical drama, but a retro-period piece about a go-getting woman with a shag head of hair, pleasantly reminds us for a second year in a row, just how sassy Stone can play.

Steve Carrell aces it in his portrayal of Bobby Riggs. Comedy, attitude, ambivalence, and eventual humility.  Not to mention those sideburns and that look!

Sarah Silverman portrays King’s friend and outspoken business manager, Gladys Hedman, who decides to start their own league after they realize men get paid four times more than women.  The ever-gentle Alan Cumming has a small role as Ted, the tennis league’s fashion designer, who also enlightens us to some of the challenges of what it might have been like to ‘come out’ in the seventies.  Bill Pullman portrays Jack Kramer, a man carrying on about how women belong in the kitchen, while “men have families to support” and are “faster and stronger”.

It’s a worthy cinematic afternoon that delivers so much more than you might expect. Perhaps it’s that King understood the explosion in tennis at a time which raised awareness to gender equality.  Perhaps it’s that King knew she should use her platform in order to be that voice for women.

It seems this iconic woman’s real goal was being true to her fellow sisterhood amidst all the chaos. Perhaps Billie Jean King for President 2020?  3 ½ tiaras



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