Sheer entertainment in so many ways while also highlighting an essential history lesson that broke out within sporting circles into a global spotlight on radical activism for its time sparked by the intoxicating confidence of tennis legend, Billie Jean King.
Channelling the icon, Oscar Winner Emma Stone immerses herself as King who encouraged her fellow female players to break away from the US Lawn Tennis Association to create her own rebel women’s tournament in order to receive equal pay for equal work to male counterparts.
Watched over by highly strung mentor Gladys (Sarah Silverman) the group travel the country on a successful circuit picking up major cigarette sponsor Virginia Slims along the way, a brand that focussed on women to smoke, a lot.
Former Wimbledon champ, a compulsive gambler, serial hustler Bobby Briggs (Steve Carell) is addicted to the limelight and calls for a match against King to prove Men are better than Women. This is 1973; but no matter the era, still shocking to hear the openly politically incorrect remarks about females in a catalogue of offensive remarks hurled around from the public to news broadcasters.
On the court, as she demanded equal pay, Billie Jean, although married to Larry (Austin Stowell) off the rectangular stage she struggled coming to terms with sexuality, agreeing to take a hairdresser Marilyn (a truly wonderful Andrea Riseborough) on tour, doubling as her lover.
Amongst all the seriousness there are many laughs and lighter moments, Steve Carell as Briggs doesn’t hold back the obnoxious traits while still evoking some compassion with his home life deteriorating. The novelty match as some called it was not boycotted turning into an important sporting event.
The underrated talent, Australia’s own Jessica McNamee (The Loved Ones, The Vow and Chips – unfortunately) smashingly bright-eyed is terrific as one of our great champions, Margaret Court.
Women’s athletic prowess is questioned all too often now, I can only imagine this excellent portrayal only scratches the surface of the reality behind the scenes.
It’s no Oscar contender but friendship, dignity and love are all unravelled in this often comedic, must-see film.
Shane A.Bassett | Movie Analyst
Biography, Drama, Comedy | USA, 2017 | 15 | Fox Searchlight UK |24th November (UK Cinema) | Dir.Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris |Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Jessica McNamee, Alan Cumming, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elizabeth Shue