Emma Stone earned the best reviews of her career and a Best Actress Oscar for her work in “La La Land,” so anyone paying attention to the awards race this year should take notice when critics say she has “never been better” in “Battle of the Sexes.” The sports drama, directed by “Little Miss Sunshine” duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, premiered at Telluride over the weekend and critics are unanimous in their praise for Stone’s top-notch lead role.
The actress is front and center as tennis icon Billie Jean King, who fights for gender equality and discovers her sexuality while fending off her fiercest rival, Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), inside and outside the court. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich called Stone “brilliant” and “immediately believable” in the lead role.
“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,” Deadline’s Pete Hammond says. “She’s perfection in the role and genuinely touching.”
The script from “Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar winner Simon Beaufoy spends a lot of time with King as she explores her sexuality and falls in love with a hairdresser (Andrea Riseborough), and it’s here where many critics are saying Stone delivers career-best work.
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“Stone doesn’t play ‘gay,’ but she does reshape herself — how she holds her body, even how she kisses,” writes Sasha Stone of The Wrap about Stone’s transformation.
“The romantic spark between the two characters feels real, as Stone shines with the glow of someone who’s just been recognized for the first time as her true self,” Peter Debruge of Variety adds.
The Hollywood Reporter says Stone “comes out swinging” and delivers “a terrific performance that’s convincing dramatically and physically.” Hammond finishes his review by calling the actress “extraordinary.”
The Oscar race is in its very early stages, but it’s at festivals like Venice and Telluride propels contenders and gives them the buzz they need. Stone’s work in “La La Land” entered the race last year when she won Best Actress at Venice, for instance. Contenders emerging this year include Sally Hawkins in “The Shape of Water” and Gary Oldman in “Darkest Hour.”
Critics are clearly on Stone’s side. Expect buzz to continue when “Battle of the Sexes” makes a stop at the Toronto International Film Festival this month.