Tag Archives: Emma Stone

Battle of the Sexes (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

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Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Stars: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman

I was pleasantly surprised with “The Battle of the Sexes” the primary storyline to the movie is the legendary story of Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Carell) going head to head in a showdown match between the legendary women’s Tennis player and Tennis hustler and former men’s Tennis player. But there is more to this movie than just a gimmicky event. This is more about Billie Jean King and her personal and professional battles in the early 1970’s.

Society has came along way since 1973 and let’s be honest we still have a long way to go. But back in 1973 the world was a different place. In the Tennis world the men’s games was rewarding their players with 9 times more pay than the women’s who were pulling in the same crowds as the men’s. Unfair? Well obviously. Not just that but the game and its institutional was favouring the men’s game considerably to the point of chauvinism.

Billie Jean King along with her manager Gladys Heldman (Silverman) were at the forefront to change the face of Women’s Tennis forever by breaking away from the WTA and its President Jack Kramer (Pullman). Also in her personal life, she was battling. Struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed throughout the tour.

This is where the story succeeds. The match itself although is billed as the climatic finish to the film, I felt her battle with the establishment and her own personal feelings more compelling. The match versus Bobby Riggs was really just the icing on the cake. As a “get it up you” to Kramer and Co.

Emma Stone must be in the top 5 of Hollywood actresses just now. Her portrayal of Billie Jean King is controlled and composed. She never at any point over does the character or the situation. In fact, I felt her portrayal helped me understand the struggle not just for her but for women in general and not just in the Tennis world. Stone gained 15 pounds of muscle for this film and shows her commitment to the role.

Steve Carell I have been a fan of since 2003’s Bruce Almighty as the irritating Evan Baxter and followed this character up with the less successful Evan Almighty. His next role though was the one that caught my eye in 2007’s Dan in Real Life. It showed to me that Carell could act outside his comfort zone and in The Battle of the Sexes I felt he did well as the serial hustler Riggs. As Billie Jean King said Riggs is more of a clown playing to an audience rather than and out and out chauvinist. Don’t get me wrong there are times when he displays a lack of respect in the film and to be honest I wasn’t sure myself whether or not this was part of his act.

The rest of the cast where mostly consistent and really just add to the occasion. Sarah Silverman is great as Heldman. Andrea Riseborough was fine as hairstylist Marilyn Barnett. Disappointingly Bill Pullman’s portrayal of Kramer is a little flat and uninteresting. Predictable you may say.

Credit to Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. What could have been a very run of the mill storyline turned into an interesting drama that flitted back and forth between Billie Jean King versus Bobby Rigg, Billie Jean King’s relationship with Marilyn Barnett and Billie Jean King versus Jack Kramer. The pacing throughout was consistent and was well mapped out. Interestingly I was personally impressed by the inclusion of stock footage of Howard Cosell (Famous Sports Announcer who broke the News of John Lennon’s death on Monday Night Football that dreadful December night back in 1980) using clever CGI wizardry the filmmakers managed to convince the audience that actress Natalie Morales, who played Rosie Casals was being interviewed by Cosell in an almost flawless process. Apparently the most difficult part wasn’t the technical aspects, but getting permission from his estate.

Overall “The Battle of the Sexes” is an interesting film. The look and feel to any historic moment in time is crucial and I feel the makers hit the nail on the head with feel and tone. Stone in particular could be up for an academy award nomination for her portrayal it was that good and the storyline concluded well. If you haven’t viewed this movie yet I can honestly say watch it and you will be entertained. Highly Recommended.

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La La Land (2016) Movie Review by John Walsh

LA LA LAND

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt

After recently cleaning up at the Golden Globes, La La Land, the triumphant follow up to Whiplash from Damien Chazelle is a truly beautiful creation. Following in the footsteps of Hollywood classics; such as Singin’ in the Rain and Casablanca, the latter even getting a mention at one point. It’s an immaculately crafted piece of escapism that draws even non-musical fans like myself in with its alluring charm.

Opening with an infectious musical number performed symbolically by young commuters stuck in a gridlocked freeway headed to Los Angeles. They begin exiting their cars, one-by-one, dancing, flipping and performing all sorts of intricate choreographic acrobatics to the ear worm inducing ‘Another Day in the Sun’. The camera weaving exquisitely around, over and through the performers in one continuous take. Following this brash, Broadway-esque introduction, the film begins in earnest panning down to our two leading stars. Mia (Emma Stone); barista come aspiring actress and Seb (Ryan Gosling); a surly, jazz enthusiast and pianist. Some road rage and finger flicking ensues after Seb is trapped behind Mia, who is blissfully unaware that the traffic has began moving again, too busy reciting lines for an audition.

The film continues to follow Mia as she travels to her work at a small coffee shop within a film studio before we see a brief, comically bad audition unfold. Somewhat dejected looking, she arrives home to a flat shared with three other friends. Another musical number soon kicks off and all four head out to a party that proves to be rather anticlimactic. An impounded car later and she’s soon walking past a club on her miserable trek home. Hearing the somber tones of a lonely piano, curiosity gets the better of her and she heads inside. The screen fades to darkness leaving Mia standing, gazing outwardly at the pianist. Seb gets up, barging past a startled Mia and completely ignoring her attempts to talk as he leaves. The film then flips perspective into Sebastian’s life. Just like Mia, he’s pursuing a dream, though not for stardom, but to resurrect an old jazz club to its former glory. He’s living in a grubby apartment, driving without a licence and practising steadfastly on his piano whilst doing small gigs in restaurants and clubs just to get by. “I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired then I’m going to hit back” he tells his sister after the latter attempts an intervention of  sorts.

The third time our charismatic duo meet is at a pool party. Seb having been fired from his previous gig at the restaurant is now part of a dodgy, 80s tribute band and wearing an equally horrendous outfit. Mia spotting him immediately, gets her revenge following the cold shoulder treatment from the mystery man. She requests ‘I Run’ and mimes along mockingly, as Seb positively exuding surliness is forced to play the synth instrumental. Afterwards the pair finally get chatting, the great chemistry between the two becomes immediately apparent and they both end up going for a walk before diving into a cool little tap dance sequence, singing ‘A Lovely Night’ and my what a lovely night it is with the gorgeous violet sky and sparkling lights of the city forming a simply breathtaking backdrop. There’s even lamppost in there, providing a cool little nod to Singin’ in the Rain.

After this moment the pair become entangled in a relationship sprawling the four seasons in a city seemingly blessed with eternal sunshine. The names literally popping up at various points, effectively separate the film into different acts. All seems to be well between our loved up couple. Mia encourages Seb to pursue his dream of opening the jazz club and likewise he pushes for her one-woman show to become a reality, hopefully providing a platform to further success. Though after overhearing her doubting mother and in desperate need of cash to make any of it possible, Seb decides to join an old acquaintance Keith’s (John Legend) jazz/rock band. This becomes an immediate success, earning him a decent pay check finally and he heads out touring shortly after. It’s at this point where the cracks first begin to show; highlighting the overarching theme of the film really. The seemingly incompatibility of pursuing an ambitious career in show business whilst maintaining a long term, loving relationship. There’s a fantastic scene between the two at this point the film which encapsulates this perfectly. During a surprise dinner they have a painful argument about their relationship after Mia hints at Seb selling out on his dream for success and neglecting their relationship whilst away.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are pure magic in this. The on screen chemistry between the two is palpable, which given it’s their third time starring opposite each other, shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Stone puts in a fantastic performance as the down in her luck actress and Gosling plays the brooding, often moody, jazz obsessed Seb with equal excellence. Learning to play the piano parts himself over an intense three month period, he looks and sounds the part of a pianist and his heartbreaking performance of Mia and Sebastian’s theme in the final scene is filled with pure emotion. Neither are perfect singers nor dancers by any means, but they do enough in that department.

Visually, it’s a complete masterpiece. Full of rich, vibrant colours and breathtakingly beautiful wide shots. The cinematography is utterly majestic and a testament to Linus Sandgren’s talents. I genuinely didn’t think anything would touch Arrival in that department, but this comes close. Musically, the score is spectacular. The string arrangements, delicate little harp and woodwind instrumentals are pure bliss and only serve to add to the films magic. The accompanying songs such as; City of Stars and the aforementioned Mia and Seb theme are catchy and will stick in the mind for a few days afterwards.

As a person who’s not mad on musicals, I didn’t expect to enjoy this and was pleasantly surprised at just how much it managed to draw me in. I would highly recommend this to anyone.