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BATTLE OF THE SEXES

SYNOPSIS:
The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

Review by Louise Keller:
You don't have to be a tennis fan to warm to this highly entertaining story in which passion, determination and courage are the drivers. The highly publicized true story about the on-court face-off between Grand Slam winner Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and former World Number 1 Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is not simply about the sport. Equal pay, male chauvinism and freedom to love whoever you want are some of the issues canvassed and as the gay marriage debate reaches its zenith, the subject matter has never felt more relevant. There's plenty to like in this vital and funny film and the dynamic between Stone and Carell hits the sweet spot.

Slumdog Millionaire screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has written a fluid screenplay that rallies back and forth across the net of gender divide and whose story strands are aptly brought together by Miss Sunshine's directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. The film begins by establishing its reality - on a backdrop of the 70s tennis circuit, when professional men tennis players were paid eight times more than women. The depiction of the tennis scene at that time and the openness of chauvinistic attitudes is fascinating.

We are rooting for King from the outset (Stone, camouflaged under a mop of black hair and steel-rimmed glasses is superb), as she stands up for equal pay in the face of tennis promoter Jack Kramer's (Bill Pullman, excellent) pigheadedness. King's coming of age story is sensitively told as she shuns her Ken-doll-esque husband Larry (Austin Stowell) for doe-eyed hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough); their eyes first meet in the hair salon mirror. Also effective is the on and off court rivalry between King and champion Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee). Carell's portrayal of gambling addict and pig-headed chauvinist Riggs is suitably complex with effective story strands involving his fiery marriage to the wealthy Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue) and scene-stealing clownish behavior on and off the court. Watch for Alan Cumming as the sensitive court stylist.

The film feels a little long and some of the juxtapositions play awkwardly. But the film's centerpiece - the exhibition match before a crowd of 30,000 - works beautifully, when all the elements (personal and professional) come together amid tension, thrills and the ridiculous. Game set and match.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

BATTLE OF THE SEXES (PG)
(US, 2017)

CAST: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman, Chris Parnell, Alan Cumming, Martha MacIsaac, Eric Christian Olsen, Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales

PRODUCER: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, Robert Graf

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

SCRIPT: Simon Beaufoy

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Linus Sandgren

EDITOR: Pamela Martin

MUSIC: Nicholas Britell

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 28, 2017






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