Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Film in Cinemas /Battle of the Sexes

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Film in Cinemas /Battle of the Sexes

Article excerpt

STARRING: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Austin Stowell, Jessica McNamee, Bill Pullman.

DIRECTORS: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris.

CERTIFICATE: 12A (121 mins) On a tennis court, love is all around before the first service point.

Husband and wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who made an auspicious debut in 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine, serve-and-volley a fine romance in their dramatisation of the televised 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, which was billed as a showdown of youth versus experience as much as a battle of the sexes.

Or as Riggs pithily summarises the rivalry in the film: "Male chauvinistic pig versus hairy-legged feminist, no offence."

Scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy, who previously penned The Full Monty and Slumdog Millionaire, elegantly navigates the personal lives of the two protagonists as he explores gender inequalities and sexual identity in the run up to the winner-takes-all contest at the Houston Astrodome in Texas.

The fractious face-off provides the film with a gripping conclusion, even if you know the eventual outcome, executed with pinpoint precision and slick digital effects.

It's a sophisticated, crowdpleasing rally of heartache and triumph against adversity, underpinned by a universal messages of acceptance and respect.

Game, set and match Dayton and Faris.

Billie Jean (Emma Stone) and her ballsy manager Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) are enraged when Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), one of the founders of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), announces the prize money for a forthcoming tournament, which is heavily weighted in favour of the male players.

"They're faster, stronger and more competitive. It's just biology," argues Kramer.

In retaliation, King spearheads the creation of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), including her fiercest rival, Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee).

The women-only tour gains in popularity and during one layover, Billie Jean meets hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough).

The spark of attraction is palpable, even though Billie Jean has an adoring husband, Larry King (Austin Stowell). …

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