'Battle of the Sexes' serves up a too-timely story

Lawrence Kim
September 22, 2017

Can an inspirational movie also be a drag?

The actress, who is now starring in the movie Battle of the Sexes as tennis star Billie Jean King, bumped into the ex-US presidential candidate and former First Lady backstage at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

"I was nine and I was in therapy". "That way I can really change things".

The King-Riggs battle, at the Houston Astrodome 44 years ago this week, became a media circus that drew some 90 million TV viewers worldwide.

While Stone still has anxiety, she told Colbert that acting has helped her manage it effectively.

"We think of Billie Jean as this courageous fighter for equality".

As the boundary breaking women's tennis champion, Emma Stone captures the complex emotional and physical demands of portraying Billie Jean King with admirable authenticity. Then we see Bobby Riggs being overwhelmed by his gambling addiction, which impacts his marriage, before he then sets out on his pursuit to convince Margaret Court and Billy Jean King to play in the titular matches. But given the stigma associated with a same-sex relationship, along with the infidelity factory, Billie Jean is forced to keep her feelings private, which takes its toll on her game as well as her personal life.

As well-intentioned as it is, this background is all very thinly drawn and suspiciously Hollywood-ized. "She's like the most warm and welcoming presence, and just such a spitfire that it was impossible [to say no]".

Bobby is also painted out to be a fool and a jokester, whose sexism is a desperate gimmick and not necessarily evil - or maybe the movie is shrewd enough to distinguish between a guy doing a bit and the real insidiousness of the ones perpetuating the divide behind the scenes. King, who was 29 at the time, was embroiled in efforts to win women equal pay and respect in the male-dominated sport. So I think it's still hard for her to watch in some ways. But there is a worthy lesson in "Battle of the Sexes" and some hope therein for these still unequal times. There is power in numbers and unity, you just have to be willing to lose it all and ruffle some feathers along the way. Seamlessly shifting between comedy, sports, period piece and family and political drama, "Battle of the Sexes" looks beyond the absurd spectacle to reveal the complicated figures at the center of this historic moments in sports and politics. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Two and a half stars out of four.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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