Opening 23 Nov 2017
Tennis buffs around the world know Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King’s prowess on the court. An exhibition match is announced when Bobby (55-year-old) is doing well, while Billie’s (29-year-old) game is off. But, backtracking a (few) year earlier, Billie and eight spirited like-minded players disagree with Jack Kramer’s (Bill Pullman) inequality regarding prize money amounts in favor of male professional tennis players. The Original 9 take unprecedented defensive lobs when pushed to hit on a new game plan.
Directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton (Little Miss Sunshine, 2006) skillfully recreate a major American turning point with impeccable intuit for timing, and detail. Simon Beaufoy scripts a behind-the-scenes conflicted, tense sports drama. Emma Stone and Steve Carell’s performances reincarnate Billie Jean and Bobby onscreen. Stone/King is determined, gutsy, dedicated, resolute, while off court sexual awakenings challenges her core persona – Austin Stowell’s measured depiction as Billie’s husband is notable. Carell/Riggs delivers another masterful, spellbinding biographical portrayal of prominent, sometimes flawed individual(s): Foxcatcher, 2014; Freeheld, The Big Short, 2015; Carell also appeared in Little Miss Sunshine. Sarah Silverman as Gladys Heldman, World Tennis magazine’s founder, and Alan Cumming as King's fashion designer and close friend, Ted Tinling, are super.
Linus Sandgren’s camerawork is awesome, Pamela Martin’s editing astute shifting between parallel timelines and blending in archival footage, and Judy Becker’s 1970s production design spot-on. The Battle of the Sexes exhibition match on September 20, 1973 when feminism was unconventional was held at a packed Houston (Texas) Astrodome and televised to an audience of 90 million; now everyone know them. Riggs was an opportunist promoter, whereas King accepted the spectacle more concerned with advancing women’s rights by changing public opinion. Consequently, as the match begins onscreen we join the fans in the Astrodome, rooting and completely drawn into the serve-and-volley action on court. (Marinell Haegelin)