'Battle of the Sexes' hits a winner: New film gathering Oscar buzz
Emma Stone, Steve Carell star in film based on famous 1973 tennis match
SAN ANTONIO – It was tennis match for the ages and one that to this day is still talked about. Perhaps the film on the topic is now on its way to do the same.
"Battle of the Sexes", a sports drama about the 1973 tennis match between 29-year-old Billie Jean King and 55-year-old Bobby Riggs, is already garnering some early Oscar buzz.
The Fox Searchlight release directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris stars both Emma Stone and Steve Carell in the title roles.
The film begins with the women's number one tennis player, Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) fighting to earn equal pay on the tennis circuit after not earning even half the prize money top male tennis players were earning.
King, along with eight other women tennis players, choose to boycott the Association of Tennis Professionals which is headed by the male chauvinist Jack Kramer (aptly portrayed by Bill Pullman) and form their own circuit -- with the help of a Virginia Slims sponsorship.
Former tennis pro Bobby Riggs, now way past his prime and a gambling addict, has resulted to cheap hustles and stunts in an attempt to remain relevant -- and tries to woo King in a man vs. woman publicity match which she at first declines.
Ultimately Riggs convinces another tennis pro, Margaret Court, to play him for the payday and he soundly defeats her, which sets both women's rights and women's tennis back in Billie Jean King's eyes. King then accepts the new challenge and preps to beat him.
It's during the lead-up to the match that you see the differences in their preparation and how important it is to both King and her feminism. King trains harder than ever, while Riggs, convinced he'll win, goes on a publicity show exaggerating his sexism, claiming in press conferences that "a woman's place is either in the kitchen or the bedroom".
It is in these scenes that Steve Carell really shines, pulling out his comedic chops in a way only he can. Riggs is shown practicing wearing a bonnet and another time with leashed dogs in one hand and a racquet in the other.
"Battle of the Sexes" offers hidden depth in the funny, yet extremely telling scenes. The film's big question ultimately becomes: who is the bigger threat to women's equality, the man who is the open male chauvinist, or a hidden one who claims to appreciate women?
The 1973 man vs. woman tennis match remains to this day the largest audience to ever see a tennis match in the United States, with an estimated 50 million in the U.S. and 90 million worldwide.
"Battle of the Sexes" had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 2. The film currently has a 79% “fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie is 2 hours and 1 minute and rated PG-13. It opens nation wide on Aug. 22.
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