Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Battle of the Sexes

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: Battle of the Sexes

Article excerpt

Battle of the Sexes recreates the famed, culture-changing 1973 tennis match between 55-year-old Bobby Riggs, a self-proclaimed chauvinist, and 29-year-old Billie Jean King, the world's top female player who was out to liberate women and herself. (She was just discovering her true sexuality at that time.) Unless you happen to identify with Bobby -- 'Don't get me wrong. I love women in the bedroom and in the kitchen, but these days they want to be everywhere!' -- this is certainly a great comeuppance film of the kind that will amply satisfy all your comeuppance needs. No complaints, comeuppance-wise. But it doesn't run very deep, divides everyone into heroes and villains, and is afflicted by an underwhelming romance whereby a woman's glasses are removed as she's told, 'Why, you are beautiful!' Or words to that effect.

With a script by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire), and directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), the film starts with King (Emma Stone) at war with the head of the Association of Tennis Professionals, Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). An out-and-out misogynist, he believes men deserve far more prize money even if women sell the same number of tickets because, if nothing else, 'They have families to support.' And when King launches her own women's tour his parting remark is, 'Well, we'll miss your pretty faces.' This all happens five minutes in, and already I have only one thing on my mind: comeuppance.

And then there is Bobby (Steve Carell). A former tennis champion -- he won Wimbledon in 1939 and was the world's top player for three years -- he's now a hustler and a gambler who's been ejected from the marital home by his rich wife (a thankless role for Elisabeth Shue), lives in the Rolls-Royce he won as a bet, craves a return to the limelight, and sees his chance. He calls King and offers to play her. …

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