Bat­tle of The Sexes

Time Out Kuala Lumpur - - Film & Tv -

‘MALE CHAU­VIN­IST PIG VER­SUS HAIRY-LEGGED FEM­I­NIST!’ That’s how ex-ten­nis pro Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) pitches his big idea to women’s champ Bil­lie Jean King (Emma Stone) in ‘Bat­tle of the Sexes’, a movie based on a story that would be un­be­liev­able if it weren’t true. Riggs vs King played for a global tele­vised au­di­ence in 1973; here it’s played for both laughs and drama by di­rec­tors Jonathan Day­ton and Valerie Faris. While it doesn’t quite hit the highs of their ‘Lit­tle Miss Sun­shine’, it’s a thor­oughly en­joy­able watch with a ter­rific cast.

Stone leads the way as King, the no-non­sense star who takes on the sex­ist United States Lawn Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion af­ter it an­nounces a prize fund that’s a stag­ger­ing eight times more for men than women. Launch­ing her own women’s tour­na­ment with the aid of or­gan­iser Gla­dys Held­man (Sarah Sil­ver­man), King goes on tour. Mean­while, for­mer World No 1 Bobby Riggs is strug­gling with a gam­bling ad­dic­tion and hop­ing to hus­tle his way back into the spot­light. What bet­ter op­por­tu­nity, Riggs ar­ro­gantly as­sumes, for prov­ing that men are bet­ter com­peti­tors than women? (This was a show­boat­ing mo­ment for sports, then in its Muham­mad Ali phase, and for men in general.)

It’s a fun setup with a rous­ing fi­nale that broadly com­pen­sates for a baggy mid­dle sec­tion (at two hours, the film seems a lit­tle too long). De­spite its inspiring fem­i­nist mes­sage, it’s the LGBTQ an­gle that proves the most com­pelling, as King qui­etly dis­cov­ers her sex­u­al­ity with hair­dresser Marilyn (a wonderful An­drea Rise­bor­ough). The scenes be­tween these two women are beau­ti­fully han­dled, their at­trac­tion as pal­pa­ble as King’s dilemma: Not only was she fa­mous in a less-ac­cept­ing era, but she was mar­ried to a man. Carell’s car­toon­ish an­tics are funny enough, but the two women are the tale’s real cham­pi­ons. Anna Smith

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