Looking back on ‘Battle of the Sexes’ – based on the 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs – I realize that it is a true product of its time; from the 70’s-style version of the Fox Searchlight Pictures logo, and its fuzzy, yet dim, VHS cassette tape look, to its timely look at sexuality and equal rights. Everything about this biographical sports drama – directed by the husband-and-wife duo of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (‘Little Miss Sunshine’, ‘Ruby Sparks’) – was made to be put into a time capsule for the Academy to view nearly 45 years later, but not before letting the world view what was inside. It is a fascinating spectacle that manages to be entertaining, charming, and triumphant!
One cannot see ‘Battle of the Sexes’ and not feel a glimmer of Emma Stone’s toothy smile and determined nature in her turn as King; who was a champion tennis player, as well as an advocate for equal rights; (The role was played by Holly Hunter in Jane Anderson’s 2001 film ‘When Billie Beat Bobby’) the same could be said for Steve Carell’s portrayal of Riggs, (Portrayed by Ron Silver in ‘When Billie Beat Bobby’) where he yuks it up during practice sessions where he hits the balls with a frying pan while jokingly saying “I’m cooking!”, or by dressing up as Little Bo Peep, whose sheep are running rampant on the court. All this makes him more of an entertainer than the “male chauvinist pig” he claims to be. Both Stone and Carell are entertaining to watch. As King and Riggs, they are as immersed as you expect them to be. I expect both to get nominations in the acting categories for next year’s Oscars; and I would not be surprised if ‘Battle of the Sexes’ gets a shot at fitting in the ‘Best Picture’ category as well.