Welcome to the House of Crouse. It’s a packed show. Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana, Miranda Richardson and Jeff Bauman, the real life inspiration for “Stronger” swing by to talk about their take on the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. It’s is not the story of a bomb or the radical politics that saw it planted at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It’s the story of the aftermath and one man’s inspirational recovery. Then “Battle of the Sexes” directors Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton come by to talk about why Billie Jean King is such an important thread in our cultural fabric. It’s all good stuff, so c’mon in and sit a spell.
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A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Billie Jean King and retired pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes,” Taron Egerton’s stylish spy thriller “Kingsman: the Secret Circle” and the Jake Gyllenhaal real life drama “Stronger.”
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at about Billie Jean King and retired pro Bobby Riggs in “Battle of the Sexes,” Taron Egerton’s stylish spy thriller “Kingsman: the Secret Circle” and the Jake Gyllenhaal real life drama “Stronger.”
Watch the whole thing HERE!
“Tennis players are like warriors who singlehandedly take on each other,” says director Jonathan Dayton.
One such warrior is Billie Jean King. As a twenty-nine-year old she was vaulted into superstardom in 1973 when she trounced ex tennis champ and self proclaimed Male Chauvinist Pig Bobby Riggs in a match billed as the Battle of the Sexes. It remains television’s most watched tennis match but more than a ratings bonanza for the network it placed King at the forefront of feminism and gender politics in the 1970s. A new film, Battle of the Sexes starring Emma Stone and Steve Carrell, aims to remind audiences of the tennis champ’s importance.
“I hope this is part of a realignment,” says co-director Dayton. “She is very celebrated but since we started showing the movie I think it has been very satisfying for her to get this new level of acknowledgement. I think she felt like she had been celebrated and that was over and now other people are getting attention.”
“She is still so active in all of it,” adds co-director Valerie Faris. “She’s still working. She’s not just out to further her legacy, she’s actually just still working on these same issues. She’s all about fairness and inclusivity. She was the one who said, ‘I want to take it away from being a country club sport and make it for everybody.’”
Battle of the Sexes is undoubtedly a sports movie. The climatic 1973 match takes up much of the last half hour of the film, but it isn’t strictly a tennis drama. Like all good sports films it’s not really about the game, it’s about the human spirit that made King a hero. It also shines a light on her personal life.
Stone plays King as warm but spunky—like Mary Tyler Moore spunky—when we first meet her. The character deepens, however, when Marilyn Barnett, played by Andrea Riseborough, enters the picture. As the married and deeply in the closet King Stone blossoms as the romance with Marilyn blooms.
“It was not a happy time for her,” says Faris. “She says she hasn’t watched the match in twenty-five years. It was hard during the process because we were nervous. We wanted to make her proud and validate who she is.”
“It was very hard for her initially to even enter this process,” says Dayton, “particularly because what was important to us was to tell the story of her first relationship with a woman but, as painful as that was, she was fine with it. She knew that was the most important aspect of it.
“We wanted to show the complexity. She saw this as an affair where she was cheating on her husband. Not only was it a huge move to act on her true sexuality but she loved Larry and didn’t want us to make that relationship seem less than it was.”
As a portrait of women’s rights and the sexual revolution of the 1970s Battle of the Sexes covers a lot of ground.
“What we didn’t want is something that is so polarizing that it would divide the world into two camps,” says Dayton. “Hopefully there are entry points for everybody. Frankly, we wanted it to be entertaining, to be a fun ride.”
“Battle of the Sexes” is undoubtedly a sports movie. The climatic tennis match between Wimbledon triple-winner Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) and ladies tennis world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) takes up much of the last half hour of the film, but it isn’t strictly a sports drama. Like all good sports films it’s not really about the game, it’s about the human spirit that makes the game great. Here we see some impressive tennis but we also get a glimpse of how Billie Jean King’s perseverance helped change the game and the world.
“Watch out guys,” says a TV announcer commenting on what would become one of King’s championship matches, “there’s no stopping this little lady.” It’s 1973 and King is a wizard on the court, a focussed athlete who makes a fraction of her male colleagues. “The men are more exciting to watch,” says United States Lawn Tennis Association honcho Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). “They’re faster. They’re stronger. It’s not your fault; it’s just biology.”
Outraged that there’s a $12,000 paycheque for the men but only a $1500 pay out for women at an upcoming USLTA tournament King and her manager Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman) take action. They set up a rival, all female league sponsored by Virginia “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Slims. Their goal is to democratize tennis, take it out of the country club, and make it for everyone.
Meanwhile former world champ Bobby Riggs is now 55 years old and working in an office job courtesy of his wealthy wife’s father. At night he gambles, despite going to Gambler’s Anonymous twice a week, playing with rich men for money. Top even up the odds he does outlandish things like play with a racket in one hand and two dogs on leashes in the other. He wants back in the big time but the big time isn’t interested in him.
Always a hustler, Riggs comes up with the idea of a Battle of the Sexes match between himself and the much younger King. She declines lading him on to star player Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee). When he shellacs the top-seeded Court it does more than just shine a spotlight on Riggs, it reinforces the idea that women aren’t as good as men. On a roll he next offers $100,000 to any woman who can take him on the court. “Who else is going to beat him?” says King. “He’s backed me into a corner.”
The rest, as they say is history. A media circus follows as Riggs publicly taunts King—“I’m going to put in the ‘show’ back in the chauvinism.”—building up hype for what would become the most watched tennis match of all time.
“Battle of the Sexes” is a feel good movie but it’s about more than a pulse racing final game. Along the way it paints a convincing picture of the casual sexism that drove King to take a very public stand, against the USLTA and then Riggs. It’s also about her relationship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) and the quandary of gay athletes, then and now.
Stone, in a performance that has early Oscar buzz, is best when she’s off the court. She warm but spunky—like Mary Tyler Moore spunky—when we first meet her. The character deepens, however, when Marilyn enters the picture. As the married and deeply in the closet King, Stone blossoms as the romance with Marilyn blooms. Those scenes are tender and help ground an otherwise relentlessly perky movie.
Carell nails the “colourful and controversial” Riggs. He is a ball of energy, bulldozing his way through the movie. His wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue) says she loves the “way you walk into a room and fill it up,” so Carell does his best to fill up the screen. He has the movie’s best lines—“Don’t get me wrong. I love women… In the bedroom and in the kitchen.”—and brings a sense of old school theatricality to the role.
As a portrait of women’s rights and the sexual revolution of the 1970s “Battle of the Sexes” covers a lot of ground but does so in an entertaining although slightly overlong way.