“Battle of the Sexes” is more than a movie. It is a rallying cry for feminism that uses Billie Jean King’s defeat of Bobby Riggs to remind the audience of persisting gender inequities — and it does all this while entertaining audiences and showing off a magnificently star-studded cast.
Emma Stone has played wives, girlfriends, struggling actresses and aspiring writers. She has made her name by charming audiences and smiling her way to stardom — but her casting as King in “Battle of the Sexes” is a drastic yet welcome departure from her usual roles.
Stone’s portrayal of King is jarringly accurate. She combines the tennis star’s rugged determination with her discomfort in the spotlight, putting an emphasis on King’s reluctance to be seen as anything more than a tennis player. In this way, the film humanizes the women’s rights icon and explores the complexities of her character.
Riggs, on the other hand, is shown as a bored ex-athlete, past his prime and using gambling as a way to escape his dead-end career. Rather than giving the audience a one-sided villain, “Battle of the Sexes” puts forth a cocky showman who brands himself as a chauvinist to attract attention.
Steve Carell’s portrayal of Riggs ranges from a tired middle-aged man with marital problems to a slightly more unhinged version of Michael Scott. At both extremes, he gives a dynamic view of Riggs’ character.