December 16 2017

'Battle Of The Sexes' Takes Center Court

December 16 2017, 04:53 | Frederick Owens

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENTSandy Kenyon reviews"Battle of The Sexes Email none

Sandy Kenyon reviews

In a eureka moment, he approaches King about a novelty match billed as the "Battle of the Sexes", but she passes, feeling it would demean women's tennis.

-The intermittently excellent "Battle of the Sexes", centering on the notorious tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, takes us back to a time - 1973 - when female tennis stars were regarded as second-class citizens compared with their male counterparts and often earned far less.

Stone, who has spoken about her own struggle to achieve equal pay in Hollywood, agreed, saying to CNN the film should serve as a reminder that "one person can make such a huge difference". And when he finds out she's been cheating on him with the hairdresser, he doesn't scream or call her names or punch a mirror, he just acts extra nice while looking like he's had the wind knocked out of him, tenderly icing King's knees and dutifully putting her career before himself.

Battle of the Sexes retells an event in American history that's so freaky, it doesn't quite seem true 40 years later.

"She felt so much responsibility to Billie Jean", added co-director Valerie Faris. On the September evening it depicts, women and girls like me placed on King our hopes not only for equal rights, but bragging rights that could shut up the know-it-all boys and men in our lives - if only for a few days. She blazes with pride as she and the other members of "The Nine" take on the male tennis establishment and glows with passion as she discovers her true sexual identity with Marilyn. So she practiced her footwork and body movements to play King.

So to play the role of tennis champion Billie Jean King in the new film Battle of the Sexes, she prepared her body using a different exercise: dance. For those who weren't alive when the match took place almost 50 years ago, it's hard to understand the magnitude of the event, and just how significant King's victory was for women's equality, both inside and outside the sports world.

"I said, 'Are you kidding, you have that?' That was better than anything I could think of", says King. I think it was a period of transformation for her and that's really what interested us and drew us to the story. "Battle of the Sexes" was shown during this year's Telluride Film Festival, and it has been met with positive reactions from the critics. The climax notably manages to be exhilarating without relying on fast editing or camera tricks, presenting the match between King and Riggs as if we were watching on television. And they're sure to let you know it, too... even when your day job is actually "actor" and not "tennis pro". This was true in "La La Land" and much more so here, where she makes King's conflicts nearly kinesthetically apparent in the way she moves - so fluid and powerful on the court, so stiff and angular away from it. In wonky prosthetic teeth, Carell spins Riggs as a heedless publicity-chaser whose taunts were never meant to truly wound. "Playing an athlete, that is how she was able to make change in the world...that was her avenue to this voice that she had. Don't we all? We want to give it and get it".

As she fights to squeeze respect from a dubious public, King is discovering that she's not only a woman in a man's world, but a lesbian. "First, identify the problem, come up with a solution, and slowly just keep working and whittling away at it".

Mick LaSalle (San Francisco Chronicle): "All this is dramatized expertly and with a lightness of touch in Simon Beaufoy's screenplay and in the direction of Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ..." And if she plays and wins: It's kind of a draw.

Success on that score is nearly guaranteed for movie watchers, regardless of what they know going in about the 1973 Riggs vs. King pairing that turned a refined sport into a gladiatorial contest of the genders. "She helped start it; my generation was to continue it". Battle of the Sexes opens next Friday, Sept. 29, at the Broad, Elmwood and Canal 9 theaters.

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