In 1973, Billie Jean King became a global advocate for the feminist movement. This would culminate in the unusual spectacle that was a tennis exhibition match between herself and Bobby Riggs, an event that drew in almost as many television viewers as the moon landing.
Now with 2017's Battle of the Sexes, those larger than life characters have been portrayed by Emma Stone and Steve Carell. This title from Fox Searchlight Pictures has been warmly received by the critics prior to a premiere this week, carried in large part by the two protagonists.
From 73 to 17 - Women's Rights Still Hot Topic
Benjamin Lee provides 3/5 stars to say that the movie is still as relevant today as it was four decades ago.
"Lurking behind the crowd-pleasing veneer of 1970s set drama Battle of the Sexes is a depressing reminder that unequal pay remains a shamefully unresolved problem 44 years later," he writes in The Guardian. "In the film, 29-year-old Billie Jean King is frustrated by the disparity between what male and female tennis players are paid, and it’s her annoyance at this injustice that acts as a propelling force for the plot."
With some narrative that lags to pad out the film, the ending is worth the wait.
"Like any great sports film, everything is leading towards one final confrontation and after a slightly saggy middle section, things do pick up just in time. It’s an ending that will soar for many, a vital victory for those who need a lift."
Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips saw this as a straight-laced production that attempts to create a simple and easy to follow plot. Given the timely manner of equal rights being back on the political agenda, it is a lack of execution to the screenplay that fails to deliver on the promise of the story.
"Engaging and sunny, as far as it goes, Battle of the Sexes is a two-headed biopic reluctant to complicate its coming-out story with too many … complications," he argues. "The placid tone of Battle of the Sexes smoothes the edges. So much has changed since 1973, and so much hasn’t. The lib thing is still a sticking point for approximately half of the country. This is why this story’s timing remains excellent."
Stone-Carell Team A Winning Formula
Peter Travers was pleasantly surprised by this feature at Rolling Stone, giving the movie 3/4 stars. For his money, the two stars are worth the price of admission.
"Starring a top-form Emma Stone as King and a perceptively flamboyant Steve Carell as Riggs, Battle of the Sexes is not an overtly political movie; it's a blast about two tennis champions going over the top to make a point."
Amid the backdrop of a comedy drama, this story has a serious side to it.
"Riggs played to stay in the game; King swallowed her pride to crusade for women. Laugh all you want at Battle of the Sexes. It's a joke you still can't laugh off."
Finally for Pete Hammond at Deadline, he was delighted with the playoff between Stone and Carell, two actors who are at the peak of their powers.
"This is one of the year’s best pictures," he concludes. "Stone is superb, capturing King’s natural athleticism and sexual confusion, ultimately resulting in an enormously powerful and touching performance... Carell is a hoot as Riggs, capturing his spirited romp into one last 15 minutes of fame."
Battle of the Sexes opens in the US on September 22.