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Brad’s Status

Battle Of The Sexes

October 5, 2017

Brad’s Status (****) R   

If you are a certain type of film goer, you know that every once in a great while a movie comes along that seems to be about and made just for you. Films like this speak to us personally as human beings. They give us insight into our own lives and force us to reevaluate and face some of the hard and ugly truths that we may be reluctant to deal with as we go through the day to day process of this thing called life. In doing so they remind us what a gift the movies can truly be and separate the folks who think movies are just entertainment from those that are smart and insightful enough to know better. Writer-director Mike White’s film, Brad’s Status, is one of those great life-altering experiences. As such, it’s also one of the best films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this year and I’m all the richer for it.   

Brad’s Status is many things, but at its heart I believe it’s an indictment of the Facebook culture in which we live.

Austin Abrams & Ben Stiller in Brad’s Status

As most of us can attest the culture we live in assaults and bombards us on a daily level with the seemingly great accomplishments of our contemporaries and comrades. Those who regularly contribute to the social media platform inadvertently make us feel less worthy with their videos and pictures illuminating the seemingly exciting and fulfilled lives they seem to be leading. It’s hard not to compare one’s self to others in this environment even if deep down we know that this is a rabbit hole we shouldn’t allow ourselves to wander into. These are the universal truths that White’s film taps into in a most profoundly moving and insightful way.   

Ben Stiller has never been better than he is in the role of the title character, Brad Sloane. Stiller has a sadness about him here that I don’t recall seeing before. His performance, in many ways, was a revelation to me. The character, Brad, is forty-seven and running a seemingly successful non-profit business. He has a nice home, a good marriage and an accomplished offspring. Still, somehow Brad feels a sense of melancholia and discontent when comparing his own life to the lives of his college friends. A feeling that his best years are behind him and that his current status in life is as good as it gets.     

All of Brad’s growing seeds of discontent come to a head during a trip to Boston that he embarks upon with his musician son (very well embodied by Austin Abrams, who’s also a revelation) as they go forth on a tour of colleges. The character of Brad provides contrapuntal commentary to the events depicted onscreen in a most unique way that harkens to back to the use of voice-over in director Billy Wilder’s films.    

Brad’s Status has quite a few great belly laughs but it’s the more serious stuff that stays with you. It made me reflect on my own choices and my own current station in life and, if you let it, it’s liable to do the same for you. It also managed to move me very deeply on more than one occasion. Through it all it never hits a false note. It’s one of the year’s best films and it deserves to be seen. 

Brad’s Status is playing in Charlotte.

Battle of the Sexes

(***) PG-13

The story of the celebrated 1973 tennis match between Billy Jean King and Bobby Riggs gets its second go round, this time as a feature film—the first attempt was a 2001 ABC TV Movie—in the engaging and involving Battle of the Sexes. Because this is a theatrical film, parts of the story that would have had trouble getting past the censors in that earlier version have now been integrated into the story and it works in the film’s favor. The most notable of which is King’s coming to terms with her sexuality. As a result Battle of the Sexes is certainly worthy of attention.

Emma Stone, in the first feature starring the actress to be released following her La La Land Oscar win, proves to be an excellent choice in the role of women’s tennis champ, Billie Jean King. Though the physical resemblance between Stone and her real life counterpart isn’t all that close, the actress still manages to lose herself in the role in such a way that we forget that it’s Stone we’re watching and not the real Billie Jean King. Steve Carrell, on the other hand, IS a dead ringer for Bobby Riggs. Carrell is also so good at humanizing the character that he actually elicits sympathy for the man. That’s a feat that isn’t that easy to pull off when one stops to consider how polarizing Riggs was in life.

The film begins with its participants in much different stages in their lives. King is a reigning women’s tennis champ and, by all appearances, happily married and with a contented life both on and off the court.

Emma Stone & Steve Carrell in Battle of the Sexes

Riggs, on the other hand, is a former men’s tennis champ, somewhat forgotten and working in an office for his father in law.

Riggs’ compulsion to gamble leads him to the idea of challenging King in a tennis match that’s bound to garner publicity. Riggs sees it as an opportunity to get back into the limelight and maybe clean up financially in the process. King eventually came to realize that a match between herself and Riggs was a chance to prove that women are equal to men in a society that believes otherwise. To state that they both had a dog in the fight is an old adage that seems appropriate.

Battle of the Sexes devotes a good chunk of its early section to King’s sexual awakening, which, as depicted in the film, comes after a chance encounter with hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). King is conflicted with the image she is expected to maintain and her own deep desires, leading to all sorts of emotional turmoil. There’s also her battle with tennis head Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), who’s basically portrayed as a man so slimy in his sexist views that he oozes from place to place.

The period detail is great and, as previously noted, the performances are spot on. If there’s a quibble to be made it would with the light tone of the film that feels a bit in conflict with the heady subjects being dealt with but that’s a small complaint for a film that’s got so much in its favor.

Battle of the Sexes is playing in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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