• Guy Jeffries

Battle of the Sexes


Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris.

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Austin Stowell, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue.

Married established musical video directors Dayton and Faris come back to the big screen after a seemingly long break from Ruby Sparks and the brilliant Little Miss Sunshine to tell the story of the iconic tennis match between the world’s number one ladies tennis player Billie Jean King and ex-champion hustler, Bobby Riggs that took place in 1973.

Though to say it’s a match, is unfair as it’s clearly more about Billie Jean’s side of the court with little to and fro in-between making Stone the main star of the picture and placing Carell into more of a supportive role. It has a daring and wonderful script that provides the comedy element of the film, and is brought to life by the entire cast. However, the film is certainly more serious than comedy.

There’s obviously a lot more at stake here than just a battle of the sexes and also delves into Billie Jean’s private sexuality, though I believe it glosses over and ignores certain, now public details of her relationship with Marilyn; who’s superbly played by Riseborough. And to be clear, the film isn’t really about tennis and more about the change in people, especially Billie Jean.

Yes, Carell’s Riggs was outrageously bigoted and much of the story’s focus is on the political and sexist attitudes of that era. It was a time where these opinions actually counted but it portrays a turning point, a true underdog story that rattled the world of both sport and politics. It’s more political than sport and though there is tennis played, it’s kept to a minimum so not to lose focus of the key story at hand.

It’s beautifully crafted and the filming style and texture is brilliant, daring to make the film look and feel much older than it really is, giving it that more authenticity. The little tennis that we do see is of good quality with some clever shots and if you’re not familiar with the actually match, then I suggest to go in not knowing the outcome which will only increase intrigue and anticipation.

The production as a whole is very impressive with realistic and convincing locations, props and especially costumes. And Nicolas Britell provides an enchanting and sometimes soothing score that isn’t necessarily suited to the times but more to the mood of the film.

Overall, it’s another good film that really showcases Stone’s talent, it’s brave and possibly invoking but I feel its lacks any great inspiration. Whatever the outcome, it’s a nice tribute to Billie Jean, even if a little soft and easy-going.

Running Time: 7

The Cast: 8

Performance: 8

Direction: 7

Story: 7

Script: 8

Creativity: 8

Soundtrack: 8

Job Description: 7

The Extra Bonus Point: 0

68% 7/10

#JonathanDayton #ValerieFaris #EmmaStone #SteveCarell #AndreaRiseborough #SarahSilverman #AustinStowell #BillPullman #ElisabethShue #AlanCumming #NatalieMorales #FredArmisen #NicholasBritell