In 'Battle of the Sexes,' King passes a baton to Emma Stone

In 'Battle of the Sexes,' King passes a baton to Emma Stone

In large part, that's because Stone really went for it. Billie Jean King is a definitively adult role for the actress, who came up in teen comedy before winning an Oscar this past year. Yet Stone was able to identify a crucial similarity between the two roles, with King's help. And the response to him is indicative of the woman who changed tennis and, ultimately, sports in general through her love of the game and her lifelong commitment to ensuring that everyone gets a fair swing.

It is a battle that King is still trying to win today. And as upbeat and entertaining as it undeniably is, "Battle Of The Sexes" sees that battle as ongoing.

When I talked to Battle of the Sexes directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, I wanted to know how they'd pulled off such a neat trick: The most exciting scene in their film is also, oddly, the most soothing. King, the face of women's tennis, spends most of her off-the-court time with a hairdresser named Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough).

Stone has spoken about pay equality in Hollywood. The climax notably manages to be exhilarating without relying on fast editing or camera tricks, presenting the match between King and Riggs as if we were watching on television. She plays King with the ideal blend of the brooding she had in "Birdman" (toned down from being way over-the-top in that movie), and the vulnerability that earned her an Oscar for "La La Land", to show the conflict and pressure King faces at this time in her life both personally and professionally. But that's a reductive conflict that doesn't do justice to the reality: that structural discrimination doesn't usually twirl a mustache (and, as pointed out in The Big Sick, most hecklers just think they're helping).

"This is me, I guess", the 28-year-old said, gesturing toward the drawing with a laugh.

Billie Jean King wasn't the first player Riggs squared off against following his comments demeaning the women's game. Years later, she said, "I just knew I had to win. On the tour during the late '70s, this woman who just saw the movie, who was the highest one in Philip Morris at the time because of Virginia Slims, told me, 'You can't say anything [about being gay] or you have no tour, '" King says. Something I appreciated right away is that the film didn't waste time setting up Billie Jean's childhood or early tennis career, which usually leads to a bloated (and boring) first act.

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"If you are on a panel with her and and no one's talking to you or asking you [questions], she starts talking about you", Miss Shue said.

To get in playing shape, both Stone and Carell were provided with coaches and trainers, and the La La Land star says she flourished under their watchful eyes.

Either way, "Battle of the Sexes" is an undeniably charming experience filled with well-acted performances, nostalgic archival footage (from Chris Evert to Howard Cosell) and catchy soundtrack tunes (from George Harrison's "What Is Life" to Bobbie Gentry's "Courtyard"). Our editor is a woman.

"We always have a good mix that way", added Faris. "I benefited in a big way from therapy", Stone revealed. Dayton and Faris instead focus Battle of the Sexes on King " s pioneering efforts to effect social change through sports - and on her behind-the-scenes personal struggles, along with those of Riggs (a compulsive gambler). His first target was King, but when she initially refused to play him, 30 year-old Australian Margaret Court took up the offer. "Feeling nauseous. At a certain point, I couldn't go to friends' houses anymore - I could barely get out the door to school".

Billie Jean calls this into question, citing the fact that the women's matches had equal ticket sales.