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With: Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Steve Carell, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman, Agnes Olech, Chris Parnell, Alan Cumming, Natalie Morales, Eric Christian Olsen, Martha MacIsaac, Sarah Silverman, Jessica McNamee, Austin Stowell, Fred Armisen
Written by: Simon Beaufoy
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual content and partial nudity
Running Time: 121
Date: 09/22/2017

Battle of the Sexes (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Net Gains

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's Battle of the Sexes tells the story of the 1973 tennis match between champ Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and self-proclaimed chauvinist Robby Riggs (Steve Carell). It's a story I knew nothing about, and it's a fascinating movie, even if it's a tad soft and surface-y. On the other hand, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and it seems to have respect for both the story's hero and its villain. Aside from the match, King is also busy forming her own women's tennis league -- the male-run league insists on paying them significantly less -- and unexpectedly falling in love with her hairdresser Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), even though she's (more or less) happily married. (Their first scene together is a thing of beauty.)

The directors (who also made Little Miss Sunshine) show the big match almost like a regular TV broadcast, simply, without any flash or bang, and they use plenty of archival footage, including commentary by the real Howard Cosell, to round it out. The film gets plenty of energy from its cast of funny people, which also includes Chris Parnell, Alan Cumming, Sarah Silverman, and Fred Armisen, though one wishes it could have dug a little deeper. As it ends, we might once have thought about how far we've come since 1973, but then we stop and think about the current administration, and realize that we haven't come very far at all. Perhaps, because of that, Battle of the Sexes is automatically more important than it otherwise might have been.

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