BATTLE OF THE SEXES — Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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battle of the sexes posterThose of us still upset over Hillary Clinton’s election loss as well as the ugly gender-based backlash unfairly aimed at her book tour will be glad to bask in the nostalgic glow of Battle of the Sexes. The year was 1973, a time when the feminist movement was in full swing and dumb bra-burning jokes and derisive comments about hairy-legged libbers were all the rage. And nothing quite symbolized the fight for equal rights quite so well than when 29-year-old Billie Jean King, the top female tennis player in the world, kicked the butt of 55-year-old self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs on primetime TV that was watched by 90 million viewers worldwide. Continue reading…

As a high-school senior at the time, the event and its outcome meant the world to me. But it feels even more necessary these days as a reminder that women are just as talented, strong , smart, capable and deserving of the same salary and benefits – if not more so – than any male counterparts. Not that directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, the married team behind 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine, and writer Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Slumdog Millionaire) are preachy even if they underline the points they are making a little too obviously sometimes. But maybe blatant is a good thing right now.

Adding balance are the finely nuanced performances of both Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs. The reigning best-actress Oscar winner gets to be bespectacled and introspective as King. Married to nice-guy husband Larry and still in the closet, she conducts a clandestine affair with her hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough). But she doesn’t let her personal life get in the way of helping to start an all-female tour circuit whose hefty payouts are sponsored by Virginia Slims cigarettes, a brand targeted to lady smokers (a sign of less health-aware times). As for Carell’s Riggs, a retired top player who was a hustler and a show-boater addicted to gambling, the filmmakers present him as someone who simply assumes the guise of a sexist bozo mostly to grab the public’s attention and cash in on his stunts. As portrayed here, he didn’t underestimate King as much as he overestimated himself, especially after beating Aussie champ Margaret Court in a previous he vs. she televised faceoff.

If there is a villain, it is Bill Pullman’s Jack Kramer, a tournament promoter who severely underpaid female winners with top prizes of only $1,500 compared to $12,000 for men. King, to her credit, ensures he gets his comeuppance before the credits roll. As openly gay tennis-wear designer Ted Tinling, Alan Cumming — a LBGT spokesperson if there ever was one — gets to assure King that, “Someday, we will be free to be who we are and love who we love.” Let’s hope those words continue to ring true given our less-than-tolerant political climate. But consider that Sloane Stephens, the just-crowned U.S. Open women’s champ, was handed $3.7 million check for her efforts. As those Virginia Slims ads used to say, you’ve come a long way, baby! – Susan Wloszczyna

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a contributor for the online awards site Gold Derby and is an Oscar expert for Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.