Most Monday mornings our office is a complete and utter mess courtesy of our Editor who, having been on a all-nighter at The Nags Head crashes back at the office fumbling around to find the lights and, thinking he’s got home, strips off and collapses on the sofa only to be discovered by the cleaner in the morning. The unedifying sight of a half naked middle aged man with a body like a dropped lasagne snoring away amidst the wreckage of the office is enough to horrify anyone and quite rightly the cleaner then makes him tidy up the office. It’s a wholly one sided battle of the sexes that he would never win against our fearsome yet lovely cleaner.
Back in 1973 Billie Jean King had become the most successful tennis player ever. At the same time long forgotten retired tennis player Bobby Riggs, who had also been No 1, was now working for his father in law and hating it. In his prime h had won a huge amount betting on himself to win games which he duly collected on but he was now restless and without tennis to occupy his time his gambling habit had got worse.
With an eye on the bigger picture he got onto the idea of challenging King to a winner takes all tennis match arguing that men were better than women at the game. Ever the showman he was all over the media denouncing women as inferior. At the same time King was engaged in two other battles that of getting equal prize money for women’s tennis and risked being thrown out of the tennis association for setting up her own tournament. The other battle was with her sexuality as, though married, she found herself increasingly attracted to women and begins a relationship with her hairdresser Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough).
Much like this year’s other tennis bio-pic Borg v McEnroe this builds up to the match between her and Riggs which was billed as the Battle of the Sexes and televised to one of the biggest ever audiences for a sports event. With the 29 year old King slightly off her game and a 55 years Riggs and past his prime it was anyone’s guess as to who would win.
Both Emma Stone, fresh off her Oscar winning turn in La La Land, and Steve Carell are excellent in the respective roles of King and Riggs. Stone, all owlish through her round glasses, belies a determined woman taken up with the woman’s movement of the time and driven to achieve equal recognition for women in her sport whilst Carell proves once again that his skill as a straight actor match his skills as a comic. The larger than life Riggs suits him well with his deliberately and comically antagonistic rants and you can’t help like him despite the outrageous things he does and says which are all for the media’s consumption. Both are well supported by a waspish Sarah Silverman as King’s manager and Bill Pullman as the slyly chauvinist tennis association president.
Unusually this has two directors Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris, whose back ground includes a wealth of pop videos for Red Hot Chilli Peppers amongst others but most notable is ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ one of the best films of 2006. Though this is not in the same class as that Battle of the Sexes has two great central performances spoilt only by a sledgehammer end line about gay rights.
Here’s the trailer…….