Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
If you’re looking for an awe-inspiring, simultaneously enduring reminder of where we’ve been and how far we have to go for equality then look no further. So rarely does a film capture our hearts, minds, and souls whilst also tickling our sense of humor – but “Battle of The Sexes” finds a way to do just that while brilliantly towing the line between preachy and socially enlightening.
Based on a true story: the year is 1973, Billie Jean King (exquisitely portrayed by the ever inimitable Emma Stone) is at the top of her game in American Women’s Tennis yet she and her fellow teammates are paid 8 ½ times less than that of their male counterparts. So what do they do about it? With the help of Billie’s long time supporter and World Tennis Magazine’s founder Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman delivering a nuanced yet utterly relatable performance), they create a league on their own terms.
Meanwhile, gambling ole Bobby Riggs - Steve Carell once again disappearing into a character so brilliantly he’s nearly unrecognizable as the pompous/opportunistic Riggs - bursts back onto the Tennis scene to reclaim his former glory days. This time in his old age by challenging women Tennis players to a Battle of The Sexes, hence the entirely apropos title. Inevitably these two enigmatic forces collide in one of the most watched and highly touted sporting events to date.
More interesting perhaps, are the struggles and turmoil being battled within these two characters off the court. Between Riggs’separation due to an insatiable gambling addiction turned wedge in his relationship, to the insurmountable pressure of King’s public image and her struggles in coming to terms with her sexuality – there’s more than enough character work to mine for both the formidable leads.
Though with a star-studded cast including the likes of Alan Cumming, Bill Pullman, and Elisabeth Shue it’s an almost too easily accomplished task to justly bring this writing to life. While “Little Miss Sunshine”/ “Ruby Sparks” husband and wife director duo Dayton and Ferris seem to be able to do no wrong in this, their third highly-acclaimed indie-arthouse release.
While the film is an all around gem with a much needed reminder in these times of how absolutely crucial so many social movements continue to be, the shining star once again seems to be Stone; offering one of the greatest performances of the year thus far and some would argue of her career as real-life Tennis Star and Women’s Rights Advocate Billie Jean King.
Biopic and true story fatigue be damned, “Battle of The Sexes” transcends cliches, tropes, and common missteps to prove as worthy as any other creative ensemble’s bid for unanimous Oscar gold. A (97%)
Matthew Porter is a guest columnist and film critic for TheOnlyCritic.com. He will be bringing forth some new perspective and reviewing various films occasionally. You can follow him on Twitter (@Mattttttttthew)
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