Battle of the Sexes (PG) Stars Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Jessica McNamee, Alan Cumming, Bill Pullman Review by Annelies Gartner
Film examines tennis tussle
In 1973, 29-year-old women’s tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) went head-to-head with 55-year-old former men’s champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in what was dubbed the “Battle of the Sexes”.
It was a time when women’s rights were at the forefront as they were struggling for equality — sadly the struggle continues to this day.
As well as focusing on the politics and social change of the time, the film looks at the very personal stories of the two champs.
Riggs was fighting to stay in the spotlight after his professional retirement and was feeding a gambling addiction.
King wanted women’s tennis to get the recognition it deserved at the same time as she was trying to come to terms with her sexuality.
The movie features Jessica McNamee as Aussie women’s champion Margaret Court.
Filming was over before Court became so vocal on marriage equality.
Her character in Battle of the Sexes is not fleshed out, but it would have been interesting to explore her personality further in light of recent events, if the timing of the film and Court’s comments had coincided.
Although there wasn’t a chance to go down this path the inclusion of the married King’s relationship with hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough) is as interesting as the competition between Riggs and King.
And she wasn’t the only one having relationship issues, with Riggs and his wife having marital problems at the same time.
Simon Beaufoy’s (Slumdog Millionaire) compelling script entwining these personal stories with the head-to-head battle between King and Riggs makes this so much more than a sport film.
A remarkable transformation by Stone to become King, along with notable performances by Alan Cumming as women’s tennis fashion designer Cuthbert “Ted” Tinling and Bill Pullman as the sexist tour promoter Jack Kramer make this film as relevant and inspiring today as it was on the day of the match, 44 years ago.
Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the film Battle of the Sexes.