Battle Of The Sexes review: Emma Stone and Steve Carell serve up convincing performances in this enjoyable true story from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine.
Battle Of The Sexes review by Paul Heath.
From the team behind the superb Little Miss Sunshine comes this true story of the infamous Battle Of The Sexes of the title, the 1973 highly-charged exhibition tennis match where the legendary Billie Jean King took on 55-year-old former grand slam winner, and self-confessed ‘male chauvinist pig’ Bobby Riggs.
Emma Stone portrays the role of King, the 29-year-old pro who famously dropped out of the main U.S. tour after a major disagreement over prize money awarded to men, which was more than eight times what women received for the same tournament. King, along with a bunch of other pros, go out on their own by setting up a new tour with much higher prize money, put up at the time by a cigarette sponsor. During the first tour, King is challenged to a $35,000 winner-takes-all exhibition match by former male pro Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), a match that she immediately turns down.
Rigg himself is himself going through his own personal issues – he has a gambling addiction which results in his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue) leaving him. This leads him to the first of the ‘Battle Of The Sexes’, and then the subsequent second game that King partakes in, the prize money upped to a massive $100,000.
During this time King, who was up until this point happily married to real estate broker Larry, starts a relationship with a Los Angeles-based hairdresser named Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), who eventually goes on to join her on the tennis tour.
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The film chronicles the true story of the duo’s journey, both professionally and personal over a number of months, leading up to the historic tennis match, which would go on to become the one of the biggest in the sport’s history.
Battle Of The Sexes is a great film to look at, the opening titles styled to look they are right out of the era in which the movie is set. The photography is also hued with yellows and oranges, both to depict its sun-kissed California setting, as well as the glorious, colourful days of the 1970s, which, along with the superb production design by Judy Becker (Carol), and brilliant costume design by Mary Zophres (Interstellar) work wonderfully.
Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine, Ruby Sparks), have brought together a superb cast, led by the very watchable Stone and Carell, both of who excel in their respective roles. Stone particularly shines as King, a well-honed and totally realistic portrayal of the legendary tennis player, a performance that is both heartfelt and honest. Carell brings much of the humour as the ego-centric Bobby Riggs and is one of his best performances for some time.
The film is largely enjoyable, Simon Beaufoy’s (The Full Monty) screenplay capturing the still relevant story perfectly, even though it does play it safe with a fairly generic paint-by-numbers approach. Like Dayton and Faris’ previous films, they deliver a well-crafted third feature together, a film that does what you expect it to do and does it with style.
Battle Of The Sexes review by Paul Heath, September 2017.
Battle Of The Sexes is released in UK cinemas on 24th November 2017.