Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris direct Emma Stone, Steve Carell and Andrea Riseborough in this dazzling recreation of the stunt match between the world’s number one female tennis player and the former men’s champion.
An unexpected highlight of the year. Unfussily it unpacks and explores the still very familiar gender politics of four decades ago but without ever losing sight of being a funny, engaging character drama. Both comedy stars are given difficult, multilayered roles to delve into. An admirably restrained Stone’s loveable take on living tennis icon Billie Jean King convinces as a human figurehead, exploring her new sexuality while calculatedly never losing focus on her career or media image. Surprisingly Carell’s Bobby Riggs is equally sympathetic, his relationship failures and often superficial bluster are essayed with persuasive humanity. It is also one of those deeply pleasing movies that litters it support roles with famous faces more than capable of carrying another movie by themselves, the big name ensemble creates a rich tapestry for the viewer to get wrapped up within. The ‘walking and talking’ first 90 minutes is wittily and vibrantly packaged, immersing you in the stakes and import of the gaudy event. So that by the time you reach the knowingly ridiculous media circus of the game itself you are punching the air at every rally won, every lob returned. A simple enough footnote from modern history has been invested with rare cinematic heart, playfulness and relevance for a Hollywood product of the 21st century.