This year, we seem to be watching a disproportionate number of bio-pics or docu-dramas which depict (with artistic license) the lives of real people and events. This includes the movie about tennis superstar rivals Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, which we watched on the first day of the festival. There are even a few more such films that didn't make our short list, including Stronger about a couple dealing with the aftermaths of the Boston Marathon bombing, and The Current War about the rivalry between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse in their battle to see whose electric current protocol would become the accepted standard. I feel that I have learned so much history from all these biographical movies that I watched.
Borg/McEnroe, this is the second tennis bio-pic that we watched at TIFF 2017. Based on pre-festival buzz, we expected Battle of the Sexes to be the better movie, but surprisingly, we found first film to be more compelling. This seems to be the general opinion since on the movie trivia and ranking website IMDB.com, Borg/McEnroe currently has a 7.2 rating while Battle of the Sexes is currently trending with a dismal 4.6 rating. These ratings should be taken with a grain of salt since it is early days yet and each movie has less than 400 votes. While both movies focused on the back-stories and personal challenges of the characters both on and off the tennis court, Borg/McEnroe resonated more, especially in the portrayal of Bjorn Borg.
Battle of the Sexes did a better job of showing the actual tennis rallies and winning points of its iconic match, accomplishing this by using professional tennis-playing body doubles for the long shots. It is to be noted how weak and gentle the strokes from both Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs felt compared to what is on display by both the mens’ and womens’ players of today. Not only have the racquets become bigger and more powerful but so have the athletes. Miss King (in the teal jacket) showed up for the Premiere screening and Q&A of Battle of the Sexes and it was noted how small she appeared next to the cast of the movie. When the cast first came on stage for the Q&A, we were all wondering what happened to Sarah Silverman, who had been there earlier in the evening. Part way through, she tried to sneak onto the stage, and when asked what happened, she explained that she had to rush off to "take a sh**!", drawing huge laughs from the crowd. There is no sugar-coating things with Sarah Silverman.
Through incandescent phone calls and meetings in deserted parking garages, Felt was given the nickname of “Deep Throat”. Felt never publicly acknowledged his involvement until 2005, just a few years prior to his death. Liam Nielsen was great in the role of Mark Felt, displaying stoic gravitas and determination. I had trouble keeping the huge cast of characters apart, from White House staff to FBI G-men to CIA to reporters. I’m not sure how accurate the conversations were, but I liked how the various parties tried to intimidate each other with implied threats rather than explicit ones. I did wonder why Felt, who was one of the prime suspects for the media leaks, was not “tailed” or followed to his various meetings and calls from the same phone booth. This would have happened had it been a fictional spy movie. I guess there was no one to assign to this task that normally would have fallen to the FBI. A subplot involving Felt’s missing, runaway daughter served to humanize him, making him seem more vulnerable and relatable.
To start with,
Ted walked away from the scene of the accident, did not call for
emergency assistance to help rescue Mary Jo, and did not report the
accident to authorities for ten hours, despite pleas from Joey to do
so. Kennedy did try to phone his father Joseph Sr. for help, but was
met with scorn and lack of sympathy. When Ted finally reported the
incident the next morning, after police had already discovered his
vehicle in the water, he wrote out a multi-page confession/statement
that white-washed events but was filled with inconsistencies. He used
his influence to prevent an autopsy of Mary Jo’s body. To explain his
actions, he claimed his doctor had diagnosed him with a major concussion
and prescribed sedatives for him, which it turns out could actually
kill a concussion victim. To drum up sympathy for himself at Kopechne’s
funeral, Ted wore a ridiculously fake-looking neck brace, again against
the advice of his army of lawyers who looked upon him with frustrated
Through much spin and manipulation, Edward Kennedy
ended up pleading guilt to leaving the scene of a crime and was given a 2
month jail term, which was immediately suspended. To give time for the
scandal to die down, he did not campaign for the presidential
nomination until 1980, but lost in this only attempt. He did end up as
the longest serving Senator for the remainder of his career. Jason Clarke did an amazing job of portraying all the faults and vulnerabilities of the black sheep of the Kennedy dynasty. Despite
all of Ted’s selfish, stupid and immoral actions, you can’t help but
feel sorry for the little boy inside him who only wanted his father’s
love and approval, but was never going to get it.
William Marston was a professor of psychology, who along with his wife and fellow psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston, developed the systolic blood-pressure test which was the basis for the lie detector. In his psychology classes, Marston lectured about his DISC theory which posits that human behaviour falls into four behavioural traits—Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance. Olive Byrne, a student in Marston’s class, is hired to be a research assistant to his and Elizabeth’s research, but soon ends up in a long-term poly-amorous relationship with the couple. The movie starts with a scene of people burning copies of Wonder Woman before moving to a tribunal before which William needs to defend his comics creation against charges of immorality and perversion in the stories and images that he depicted, which included bondage, spanking and lesbianism. As he answers questions about the genesis of Wonder Woman and her various features and super powers, we are shown flashbacks to Marston’s life with Elizabeth and Olive, which demonstrate how they were the real "Wonder Women" who were the inspirations for the character. The movie also cleverly relates each section of the flashbacks to the four traits in the DISC theory.