BFI London Film Festival Reviews

Battle of the Sexes – Review

Despite the strides that we’ve made in the modern world, we are still unequal. Divided are we across the globe, whether it is sex, sexuality, or race, there are people who choose to segregate us. Even in modern societies, or first world countries, we still have discrepancies, particularly when it comes to women. In America or even the UK, there are still crevices of inequality, sexism, and more. We still have a long way to go.

That’s why movies such as Battle of the Sexes is so important.

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Starring the now quintessential Academy Award winner Emma Stone and the brilliant Steve Carrell, Battle of the Sexes tackles the  1973 tennis tournament between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  King had separated from the US Tennis Organisation, to protest equal pay for women tennis players. Touring in her own league, and dealing with her awakening sexuality,  Bille Jean King is challenged to a match by known hustler Riggs and the result could change tennis forever.

There is not a player here who is flawed. In fact, every single actor and face within this sporting piece hits it over the net. Through their engrossing work, there is a triumphant spirit and it starts with Emma Stone. There are talks that she’ll garner another Oscar nomination, the third in a row with her wining Best Actress last year. There is no argument here: As Billie Jean King, Stone encompasses a woman determined, striving for her sport and her equality, whilst the turbulence of her awakening sexuality undercurrent an endearing performance. She is a character of emotion, whether it be on the tennis court or behind the scenes, but Stone’s personality equals King’s and it is so enriched that it is impossible not to fall in love with either of them.

Steve Carrell is great and portraying Bobbie Riggs as someone depicted in the media as a clown but a desperate and earnest competitor who  had a history of gambling and marital problems. Together the illuminate the screen but when the movie shifts the focus to King’s affair with hairdresser Marilyn. Played delightfully and delectably by Andrea Riseborough, the secret love is so wonderfully fleshed out. Stone and Riseborough have incomparable chemistry together that I’d easy watch them together in every movie ever.

Sarah Silverman, Bill Pulman, Elisabeth Shue, and Natalie Morales, every person in support hit’s their mark with excellence, making this casting an intriguing and amazing  collective.

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If you thought we weren’t going to use this image, you were so wrong.

Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Faris bring back the glorious aesthetic of the seventies in both look and sound  whilst framing certain scenes in fresh ways. Whilst there may beats of familiarity, the film never feels redundant or derivative as the dual directors keep a sharp rambunctious energy throughout.

No doubt that the sexism prevalent within the movie is maddening. As commentators, friends, and the Tennis organisations spout sexist bullshit, it’ll hit each and every one of your nerves (there’s even a patronishing hand on shoulder in one interview that will infuriate me as long as I shall live. . Especially because these are words still spoken today. Heck, you can’t even float this match out on the internet without the greasiest of trolls emerging from under their bridge to wail: “It was rigged.”  Smartly, the film gives them no grounding. In fact, every comment started in this manner is instantly ridiculed with seething chagrin. That’s how they have to be approached. With absolutely horror and rolls of laughter, because believing one gender is superior, even on a tennis court, is bemusing and wrong.

The only complaint to have with Battle of the Sexes is that it goes on a smidgen too long: Like a tennis ball landing a millimetre off the white line. Yet this is an interesting, brilliant show of sporting heroism that will make you love Emma Stone even more.


Battle of the Sexes is out 24th November 

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