Sunday, October 22, 2017

Best Actress 2017: Emma Stone in "Battle of the Sexes"

It's been a month since I've had the chance to see a film involving a Best Actress contender. I had wonderful intentions of seeing Jennifer Lawrence in mother!, but based on the reviews and my low expectations of it's Oscar-earning prowess, I've held off. Instead, I swung by a local theater on Thursday after work to catch a screening of Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes.

Tennis has been a major interest for me since I was a kid. I've played off and on since I was 12 and have closely followed professional tennis ever since. Billie Jean King was before my time, but I was course aware of her from a young age, knowing that she had been the top ranked player at one point in the '70s. I've had the opportunity to attend matches at the national tennis center named after her in Flushing, NY, so I went into the film a little skeptical about what it may look like if they were going to reproduce major sections of her historic match against Bobby Riggs. I've since learned that the tennis scenes were portrayed by actual pros.

For those not familiar, the story surrounds the events leading up to Billie Jean King's exhibition matchup against former professional player Bobby Riggs. Spoiler alert: King beats Riggs after he had successfully defeated the then current number one-ranked women's player, Australian Margaret Court. It happens to be a socially topical story, as in the film King and other players on the women's tour are faced with overt sexual discrimination and a fight for equal pay. Emma Stone does a fine job in capturing King's struggle, as well as her mannerisms and speech. I have to admit, I tend to always see Emma Stone in her roles versus forgetting her and just seeing her character. But I didn't mind in this case, as she portrayed King as a very sympathetic and character, who unfairly had to hide her sexuality for fear of damaging her career.

The film has gotten wonderful reviews, particularly for Stone. I wonder if its release was a little too early for it to make a huge splash on the awards circuit, however. Its theme is wonderful and it's a crowd-pleaser as well, but in this year's delightfully stacked Best Actress race, not to mention that Stone is last year's winner, my guess is that she'll be the first one out the of top five for Oscar.

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