VOD film review: Battle of the Sexes
James R | On 05, Apr 2018
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough
In 2013, The Battle of the Sexes chronicled the events leading up to the landmark tennis match in 1973 between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King – a match that saw the Wimbledon women’s champion deliver a smashing blow to to the sexist taunts of retired player Riggs, who declared he could beat any female tennis player on the court. Years after that documentary, the events are inevitably brought to life in a more conventional format, as Emma Stone and Steve Carell play the parts of the two historic contenders.
The result is cheerful fun, packed with colourful period detail, chauvinist pigs and women unafraid to stand up and make a difference. Emma Stone doesn’t always look the part as Bille Jean, but she makes up for it with her typically effusive, effervescent charm. Steve Carell, meanwhile, is indistinguishable from the gambling showman Bobby, who will say or do anything for a bet.
Their excellent performances help the movie sweep along its formulaic path, but it’s the smaller moments, such as Stone’s scenes with Andrea Riseborough as hairdresser (and romantic interest) Marilyn Barnett, that really give this an ace edge.
Simon “Slumdog Millionaire” Beaufoy’s script fuses Billie’s private battle to recognise her own sexuality with her public fight for women’s respect, a balance that gives this a stronger emotional backhand than you might expect. It also volleys in some nuggets of insight into the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association, which will delight tennis fans and intrigue newcomers to the sport.
With Sarah Silverman stealing every scene she can as chain-smoking WTA manager Gladys, the result is unashamedly crowd-pleasing entertainment – but at a time when gender equality in tennis prize money is still a relatively recent stride forward, this is the kind of story that should be bringing in as big a crowd as possible.