ased from true events, The Battle of the Sexes has all the components of an Oscar worthy film. Two giant stars to pull an audience, exquisite cinematography and a true story about struggle, success, risk and a current running through it that makes it relevant today.
The film stars Steve Carrel and Emma Stone (who will most likely receive a back to back Oscar nomination) in what was regarded as one of the most highly watched sporting events in history.
The film mainly follows Billie Jean King (Stone) a tennis player regarded as one of the greatest in the sport, and in 1972 was crowned the world number one. When learning that the next tournament will only offer the female winner an eighth of what the men would win, King rises like a feminist super hero and stands her ground. A true rebel, she declares that she and her fabulous promoter Gladys Heldman (played by the equally as fabulous Sarah Silverman – and honestly the main reason I went to see this film) will organise a tournament of their own.
Of course, this is met with a deal of criticism from men. Enter Bobby Rigs – the self-proclaimed male chauvinistic pig and hustler who believes that despite not playing tennis professionally for a number of years, that he can beat woman. And who does he want to play? Billie Jean King.
After initially resisting, “Why would I want to join the Bobby Riggs circus?” King feels that it is all on her shoulders to win, and feels if she loses she’ll set women and feminism in the sport back 50 years.
Despite the audience all knowing that King wins, the film is great at building the tension during the match. No-one expects Stone and Carrell to emerge to be world class tennis players, but the attention to detail in the close up shots, imbedded with the work of their doubles Vince Spadea and Kaitlyn Christian gives the illusion of watching footage from 1973.
With the title being 'Battle of the Sexes' I expected an equal balance of screen time and content for Riggs and King. It feels more like 'The Billie Jean Story'. Her discovery that she is attracted to women adds a deeper complexity and reminds us of the LGBT issues so many still face today. King is a tennis icon and paired with the apparent feminist lens, makes the film seep into documentary territory at times.
Emma Stone becomes unrecognisable as King and manages to capture the complexity in every frame. For her first time playing a real person on screen, Stone acts thoughtfully and stoic in a performance that lives up to her previous Oscar win, proving she can act with the big leagues now.
Linus Sandgren’s decision to film on 35mm is what pushes this film into great territory for me. It brings a sense of 70s nostalgia with a paradox of being present in the moment.
This film screams Oscar, to which I’m pleased.