Battle of the Sexes
Out Now On-Demand
He made a bet, she made history.
Emma Stone is Billie Jean King, the 1973 World Number 1 tennis player who fought for gender-equal tournament winnings. From the directors of Little Miss Sunshine and co-starring Steve Carrell.
The electrifying 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) was billed as 'The Battle of the Sexes' and became one of the most watched televised sports events of all time. The match caught the zeitgeist and sparked a global conversation on gender equality, spurring on the feminist movement. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposite sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles.
Comedy, Sport, True Story & Biography
Rating: PG Coarse language
A breezy, funny film about serious subject matter, Battle of the Sexes benefits from some winning lead performances and the admirably light touch of co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine).
This was always going to be about more than just the actual tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, but it's notable how late in the picture the notion even arises.
Prior to that, the film mines a lot of rousing pathos out of the King-led stand that female tennis players took in the name of equal rights in the professional game. It also lingers wistfully on the romance between the married King and her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) that occurred around the same time.
At first glance, Stone's performance appears to be embodying the film's sunlit tone, but as the film progresses, the character's steely resolve really begins to shine through, ensuring Stone's presence in the next awards round.
The film's portrait of Bobby Riggs is generous. Rendered somewhat sympathetically by the small hints of Michael Scott and Gru (Carell's characters from The Office and Despicable Me) that can be identified, he is shown to be a buffoonish but decent man who leaned into the sexist rhetoric surrounding the event simply because he enjoyed the attention doing so brought him.
Supporting players Alan Cumming, Sarah Silverman and Natalie Morales all bouy the film's entertainement value with spririted turns alongside slightly random appearances from the likes of Elisabeth Shue and Fred Armisen.
As is often the case with films about recent historical events that reflect the contemporary cultural and political discourse, some of the dialogue here can't help but feel a little too informed by hindsight, but that never detracts from the film's optimistic outlook and positive lasting impression.
New York Times
Los Angeles Times
The Guardian (UK)
Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)
Sydney Morning Herald
The Listener NZ (Peter Calder)
Newsroom.co.nz (Darren Bevan)