BATTLE OF THE SEXES
(directors: Valerie Faris/Jonathan Dayton; screenwriter: Simon Beaufoy; cinematographer: Linus Sandgren; editor: Pamela Martin; music: Nicholas Britell; cast: Emma Stone (Billie Jean King), Steve Carell (Bobby Riggs), Andrew Riseborough ( Marilyn Barnett), Natalie Morales (Rosie Casals), Sarah Silverman (Gladys Heldman), Bill Pullman (Jack Kramer), Alan Cumming (Cuthbert ‘Ted’ Tinling), Elisabeth Shue (Priscilla Riggs), Eric Christian Olsen (Lorne Kuhle), Fred Armisen (Rheo Blair), Jessica McNamee (Margaret Court), Austin Stowell (Larry), Howard Cosell (Himself via archive footage); Runtime: 121; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Danny Boyle/Robert Graf/Christian Colson; Fox; 2017)
“When it remains nutty it hits mostly aces.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Co-directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (“Little Miss Sunshine”/”Ruby Sparks “), a husband and wife team, tell about the well-publicized true story of the 1973 tennis match between the World number one in women’s tennis Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and the flamboyant, gambler, hustler and clownish figure, the ex-tennis champ Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). Writer Simon Beaufoy keeps it as an over-the-top comedy rather than trying to make dated political points, though weighing in on current gay and feminist issues. The film lobbies back and forth between King’s story and the one of Riggs as a family man married into wealth (Elisabeth Shue). The 29-year-old King, while the world champion of the ladies, teams with her supportive hubby Larry (Austin Stowell) to support an independent Women’s Tennis Association. Also joining the act is her spirited fresh-tongued business partner Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman). Tensions arise on a Virginia Slims ladies tour over King’s attraction to team hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough), causing King to think about her vulnerable position in conservative America. By coming out King believes she will lose endorsements, lucrative deals and some of her fans (like President Nixon).The 55-year-old Riggs was past his 1940’s prime as a three-time Wimbledon winner when he challenged King. He was now a bored executive, who appears to be doing it as a stunt and to get his name back in the papers. She, at first, thinks this match might be bad for the game. But she eventually agrees after Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), an Aussie champion ladies tennis player, accepts the challenge by Riggs and is defeated. The why and how King agrees becomes the gist of the entertaining film. When the film lectures us on feminist issues and seriously tells us things like “some day we will be free to be who we are…” it loses serve, but when it remains nutty it hits mostly aces. Fun supporting roles came from King’s loyal gay fashion costumer played by Alan Cummings and from Bill Pullman playing the film’s male chauvinist heavy Jack Kramer, a tennis promoter, the head of the men’s tennis association and an ex-tennis champ.
REVIEWED ON 11/6/2017 GRADE: B+