Emma Stone returned in triumph to the Telluride Film Festival this afternoon for the 1 pm World Premiere of Battle Of The Sexes at the Galaxy. She was here for the first time last year with La La Land, starting her march toward the Best Actress Oscar six months later.
This time around she is extraordinary again, playing tennis great Billie Jean King in the movie about the legendary 1973 match in which King battled 55-year-old male chauvinist tennis Hall of Famer Bobby Riggs. He challenged the top women’s player to a $100,000 match he thought would prove men are superior and that women should “stay in the kitchen.” The whole match became a bit of a circus, but also was a rallying cry for females everywhere at the pinnacle of the women’s liberation movement when King stomped all over Riggs.
She begins questioning herself after Marilyn, a hairdresser, strikes up more than a professional relationship with the married tennis superstar. You may think you know the outcome of it all, but this film doesn’t go into all the expected places, and even the big match itself is recreated with maximum suspense. Dayton and Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) said the world has changed since they started doing this movie in 2015 (when it appeared a woman might be on the trajectory to become President), but that the personal aspects of King’s life were also a driving motivation in wanting to make it.
“What really engaged us was learning more about Billie Jean’s personal life and the story that really hasn’t been told before,” said Dayton. The reaction from the first audience to see it was thumbs up all the way, with especially big applause when Stone’s name flashed by on the end credits. It already is an impossible year for the Best Actress race, and Stone did just win an Oscar. But you simply can’t count her
out. She’s perfection in the role and genuinely touching in a scene after the triumphant victory over Riggs as she sits alone in the locker room and the emotions come pouring out. Ultimately, this is what you might call a true crowd-pleaser, and Fox Searchlight should expect a nice hit when it opens September 22nd. Like King herself , the movie about her is a big winner. Stone told me afterwards that she is thrilled to be back in Telluride and now wants to come back every year, with or without a movie. By the way, Searchlight debuted a new logo before the film, one almost identical to 20th’s legendary fanfare and graphic. Searchlight’s co-President Nancy Utley was pleased and relieved by the positive reaction to the movie, and also has The Shape Of Water making its North American debut tonight, as well as throwing their annual party here later. Co-President Steve Gilula is in Venice where another of their Fall season hopefuls, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri is debuting there on Monday. Busy times on the Pico lot.