2017 must be the year of the tennis films. Not long ago, we saw Borg McEnroe released and now it is being followed up by Oscars-tipped Battle of the Sexes. From LFF, here's my review of it.

Based on the true story of the iconic 1973 tennis match between women's world champion Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-men's world champion champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell), Battle of the Sexes doesn't just tell the story of the eponymous - and massive - televised sporting event but it also follows both King and Riggs off-court in their personal lives, at times when they both found themselves in extremely difficult spots of bother and struggling with their own personal issues - King was not only championing equality and women's rights but was coming to terms with her sexuality, whilst Riggs was dealing with a serious gambling problem causing a riff between him and his family.

Battle of the Sexes follows that traditional sports genre formula but what makes this a film much richer than its counterparts - recently, Borg McEnroe especially - is its boisterous charm and the heart and vigour that directors Jonathan Dayton and Valierie Faris (who last teamed for Little Miss Sunshine) tell this perennial story with. And its sociopolitical relevance feels more timely and pertinent than ever right now too. With a film like this, where its story exists as a cultural part of sports history itself, it comes down to the execution and Simon Beuafoy's screenplay is great. Similarly to some of his other biographical work, the likes of Everest and Slumdog Millionaire, Battle of the Sexes is driven by its characters and the writing does a superb job of realising them as such flawed, but likable, people; there's relatability and charm to them and it makes it easy as an access point for us to invest in them, as audience members. The dynamic between the pair is blistering and constantly crackling with such rich tensions and it's brilliantly handled; their interactions radiate with such an electric energy and it's terribly fun to watch Stone and Carrell constantly go back and forth with one another.

Of course, as we'd expect from Dayton and Faris, they infuse this film with such an undeniable heart and wit - a similarly rousing vibe to that of Little Miss Sunshine. They tell this story with such meticulous craft and patience, balancing various different tones and sub-plots so seamlessly and effortlessly. They also manage to keep the genre itself on its toes; sure enough, the film hits those conventional beats but it's executed with such assurance that it keeps it entertaining. The performances are the heart of this film though; Emma Stone is mesmerising as King, playing the character with such steely determination and optimism. This is Stone as we've never seen her before, tough and unwavering, and it's brilliant. Steve Carrell matches her blow-for-blow as Riggs; he's catroonish and larger than life in the best way and so funny yet he also brings the perfect edge of emotion when required too. The pair are genuinely great to watch, and are matched with a great supporting cast too, who all get plenty opportunities to stretch their muscles. Battle of the Sexes is a powerhouse sports film. It drags in the middle act but, aside from this, it's a crowd-pleaser. It's infused with such an infectious heart and energy, yet it never wavers from its subjects and the weight of the story, and tells it with such sincerity and finesse.


BATTLE OF THE SEXES OPENS IN THE UK ON NOVEMBER 24TH, 2017.

VERDICT:
Battle of the Sexes is a boisterous crowd-pleaser that radiates with such infectious heart and effervescence.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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