Pinging enjoyably back and forth over the net, this is a colourful and confident reconstruction of the hype and hubris around the infamous tennis match between showboating Bobby Riggs and trailblazer Billie Jean King in 1973.
Emma Stone is great as Billie Jean, probably better than she’s ever been. It’s her movie – she leads the women players in a breakaway tour (inspired by her publicist manager breezily played by Sarah Silverman), discovers her true sexuality (during an affair with her hairdresser, teasingly played by Andrea Riseborough) and takes on male chauvinism. Not bad for someone the newscasters of the time liked to call a ‘little lady’.
Steve Carell as Riggs has merely to clown about and add an air of desperation and hucksterism – his marriage to a New York princess (Elizabeth Shue) is of little dramatic interest. His Riggs is a gambling clown brought low by his own act and the men are generally oafs or dopes or dupes.
Alan Cumming as gay outfit designer Teddy Tindling is the only one who comes off well and he camps away with the best lines: “Times change,” he tells Bille Jean. “You should know, you just changed them.”