Battle of the Sexes – Film Review by Cristina Florescu
Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Stars: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough
Starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell, directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Ferris, Battle of the Sexes is a biographical sports film based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone), and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell). The main subject of the film is one that is sadly relevant to this day: women getting equal pay for equal work. The film starts with Billie Jean King trying to break the wall of sexism and protesting against a tournament where the women’s pay is one eight of the men’s pay. As the film progresses, we witness Billie Jean making her own way in tennis, while struggling with some personal demons.
On the other side of the story we have Bobby Riggs, a former tennis champion struggling to remain relevant. When Bobby challenges Billy Jean to a match, it quickly turns into a batte between women’s rights and male sexism, and King bears the burden of having to win this match or else set women back 50 years.
This film wins at casting and character portrayal. Stone’s and Carell’s performance are award-worthy. Steve Carell shows once again that he can do “serious roles”. After a breath-taking performance in the 2014 drama Foxcatcher, Carell combines his dramatic skills and his experience as a comedian in his portrayal of Bobby Riggs. The character is a clown, a man whose marketing strategy is proclaiming himself as a “male chauvinist pig” and stating that women belong in the bedroom and in the kitchen, but not on the tennis court. He is a man clever enough to know the serious ripples his attitude will cause in the already sexist world of sports and vain enough to do it anyway. Carell captures the nuances of this character effortlessly. However, despite his indisputable acting prowess, it is Emma Stone (much like Billie Jean King) who steals the show. Her performance is excellent! She delivers a role of both strength and vulnerability as she plays an athlete who isn’t inherently strong, or perfect, but who has to work very hard to prove herself both as a tennis player and a woman, and who has paved the way for women with professional ambitions. It is by far Stone’s best performance to date.
All in all the film has a stellar cast and is a great watch for tennis fanatics, film junkies, feminists, or generally someone who wants to spend an evening watching an insightful film. My only criticism is that it drags a bit at the start, but it is all relevant to the development of the two protagonists in a film that is character-focused. Battle of the Sexes is an entertaining piece of cinematography that will most definitely be nominated for a few big awards.